Authorities and security agents have cracked down on labor activists ahead of International Workers’ Day on May 1.
On the morning of April 26, the eve of International Workers’ Day and Iranian Teachers’ Day, security forces arrested 12 labor activists who had gathered in Jahan Nama Park on the Tehran-Karaj autobahn.
Sources close to the activists named nine of the 12 arrested. They are: Alireza Saghafi, Haleh Safarzadeh, Parvin Mohammadi, Valeh Zamani, Saeed Torabian, Foad Fathi, Mostafa Shokat, Amir Abbasi and Safiar Ghorbani. The names of the other detainees are not known but, according to an informed source, four of the detainees — Parvin Mohammadi and Haleh Safarzadeh, who are members of the Center for Defending Workers’ Rights, and Valeh Zamani and Alireza Saghafi, members of the Free Union of Iranian Workers — have been taken to Gohardasht Prison in the outskirts of Karaj. The rest have been released.
The new wave of arrests appear to be in retaliation for labor and teacher organizations’ increasing calls to hold protest rallies on May Day. “The constitution rules that rallies are allowed provided that the participants are not armed but, according to an unwritten decree, holding ceremonies to mark International Workers’ Day is not allowed,” one labor activist who asked to remain anonymous told IranWire. “In recent years even government organizations such as the Workers' House have had difficulties observing [May Day].”
“This year pressure on labor activists on the eve of the International Workers’ Day has been more severe than before,” the activist said. “By summoning or arresting them, various security agencies are trying to prevent any ceremonies or gatherings from taking place."
No Permits for May Day
Following joint calls from labor activists and teachers to organize events on May Day, security agencies in various cities in several provinces began issuing summons for teacher and labor activists. Authorities have told labor activists who they have summoned that they will not be issuing permits for gatherings, and that action will be taken against them if they do hold rallies.
In the city of Kamyaran in Kurdistan Province, security officials summoned a number of people belonging to the city’s construction workers’ union and threatened them with arrest if they hold any kind of ceremony on May Day.
On April 25, the Intelligence Bureau of Urmia, the capital of West Azerbaijan Province, summoned labor activist Ahmad Taghizadeh and interrogated him about his activities with Urmia’s industrial workers.
On Wednesday, April 24, the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Unit in Sanandaj, the capital of Kurdistan, summoned and interrogated labor activists Ghaleb Hosseini and Mozaffar Salehnia. According to the Free Union of Iranian Workers, Ghaleb Hosseini is a member of the Coordination Committee for Helping Workers to Form Labor Unions and Mozaffar Salehnia is a member of the Free Union of Iranian Workers.
In Firoozabad in the province of Fars, Asghar Amir-Zadegani, a member of the Teachers Union, was also summoned and interrogated on April 25 or April 26. The city prosecutor’s office had summoned him, instructing him to present himself to the intelligence and security police. In the past Amir-Zadegani had been summoned on charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “spreading falsehood in cyberspace with the excuse of supporting arrested teachers” but he was released on bail after he presented himself at the court. In autumn 2018, he was arrested for “sending pictures and videos to media outside Iran,” but was released after two days.
Low Wages and Living Below the Poverty Line
On Thursday April 25, the union for the workers of Tehran Unified Bus Company announced plans to hold a rally outside the Iranian parliament on May 1 to mark International Workers’ Day and to protest against low wages that meant workers live below the poverty line, runaway inflation, and the high prices of basic necessities for working-class families and for families of retired workers.
People attending the rally will also protest against the ban on independent labor unions and organizations, privatization, the commodification of education, the practice of forcing workers to sign blank contracts, discrimination against women, uncontrolled increase in child labor and the arrest and imprisonment of labor and teacher activists, which affects a large number of workers and underprivileged people.
The Teachers’ Coordination Council has called on teachers to participate in protest rallies on May 2, which is Teachers’ Day in Iran, outside provincial education bureaus. In a statement, the Retirees Union supported the call for protests.
The Coordination Committee for Helping Workers to Form Labor Unions also supported the call for protest rallies, calling for people “to protest against working conditions and the miserable life that Iranian capitalism has forced on the majority of wage earners in Iran.” The committee urged everybody to participate in the rallies “to raise the cries of protest higher than ever — against economic austerity, repression of unions and the arrests and the imprisonment of workers, teachers, students and all thinking people.”
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