A group of Haft-Tappeh Sugar Factory employees have sent an official complaint to the United Nation’s International Labor Organization (ILO) about Iran’s ongoing crackdown against labor rights protesters.
They have asked the ILO to investigate and condemn the Islamic Republic for its failure to allow independent labor unions and its heavy-handed response to the peaceful demonstrations.
“In recent months, dozens of Haft-Tappeh workers have been arrested, summoned to court or threatened simply for holding rallies to express their work-related complaints,” said the letter, sent on June 5, whose signatories are anonymous to protect their security.
“Some of them have been temporarily released on bail. The list includes the names of more than 50 workers.”
The letter also highlighted the arrest and mistreatment of journalists targeted for reporting about the protests.
“Other individuals who were engaged in reporting in support of the Haft-Tappeh workers have also faced months of detention and interrogation during which they suffered torture and intimidation.”
In particular, the complaint drew attention to the persecution and prosecution of worker’s representative Esmail Bakhshi, retired Haft-Tappeh worker Ali Nejati, civil activist Sepideh Gholian, and five members of the pro-labor publication Gam: Asal Mohammadi, Sanaz Allahyari, Amir Hossein Mohammad-Fard, and Amir Amirgholi.
“The families of the detainees have all been pressured and intimidated to keep them from speaking to the media about the difficult circumstances of their incarcerated loved ones,” the letter stated.
“Security and judiciary officials have publicly told some of the families that if more news about them gets into the media, they would keep them longer and would impose heavier sentences on them.”
A Thorn in the Government’s Side
“We want to be a headache for the government,” a Haft-Tappeh worker tells IranWire. “Let me be frank. The government makes deals with international organizations, and to do this they have to keep up certain appearances, like a series of internationally recognized rights.
“We want to be a thorn in their side. They must be forced to pay for it. Earlier, a group of our colleagues at Tehran’s Unified Bus Company did the same. They told us about their complaint.
“We learned what contortions the government went through to lie and accuse the workers of having connections to illicit groups. It told the ILO officials that these workers were charged with security crimes, not work-related issues.
“We saw that the government had to deal with this headache for years. We want to make this kind of trouble. We want our colleagues to be freed. We want them to stop making these trumped-up charges.”
The worker is hopeful the complaint will be effective because “all the world” is now aware of it.
“We want privatization to be reversed,” he said. “We want the contracts to be reasonable and for insurance rates and job classifications to be set correctly.
“Everybody knows this. The more the media and the organizations that support workers help, the more effective this complaint will be.
“The complaint is being investigated by a number of international labor groups. If our friends and labor advocates want to help, they should ensure the media gives it more coverage.”
Threatening Workers’ Families
According to the unnamed worker, all detainees from Haft-Tappeh and the Gam editorial board have been transferred to Tehran.
“They have put distance between the detainees and the families [who live in the south-western province of Khuzestan]. Besides the detainees, they have also threatened and summoned to court the families to stop them from talking to the media.
“It is not clear when their trials will be held. We need everybody’s support. This government and judiciary will not stop until it is forced to stop. The world must hear our protests for our loved ones to be released.”
During the devastating floods in Khuzestan earlier this year, the media published pictures of Haft-Tappeh Sugar Factory chairman Omid Assadbeygi helping the relief effort. Yet so far he has been absent from the workers’ protests.
“The story of this highway robber, this Assadbeygi, is the same as the story of the Iranian government,” the worker tells IranWire. “They gave him the company for nothing. He pocketed the money and escaped.
“Now you see him walking side by side with the governor and the police chief. They protect and encourage this bandit, but suppress the workers.”
Assadbeygi’s relief work is comparable to the help provided by Revolutionary Guard commanders, Friday imams, and government ministers following earthquakes and floods, he says.
“When people are down on their luck, they take pictures to say that they are nice people. But we will eventually drive Assadbeygi out of Haft-Tappeh. We will not sit still until we have taken the company out of his hands.”
Assadbeygi bought all the company’s shares in an auction in November 2014. He and Mehrdad Rostami Chegini were granted ownership with a down payment of only six billion tomans (US$1.42 million).
The men’s youth and very limited business experience led many people to view the deal with suspicion.
These concerns appeared to be validated in October 10, 2018, when Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi announced that a company in Khuzestan was suspected of “currency violations.”
“For instance, somebody who has purchased a company in Khuzestan, and who has received $800 million between 2015 and 2017, has not met his obligations and is now on the run,” he stated, without mentioning names.
On January 1, 2019, the prosecutor of another court declared Assadbeygi was wanted for robbing both the government and the company. However, he was never arrested, and in early spring he appeared on television speaking about flood victims.
The workers have sent copies of their complaint to the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF), the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the Haft-Tappeh Workers’ Union, the Union of the Workers of Tehran’s Unified Bus Company, and the Iranian Teachers’ Unions, along with other independent labor unions, pro-labor organizations, and the media.
Workers Beaten and Arrested at May Day Parade, May 1, 2019
Crackdown on Labor Activists on Eve of May Day, April 29, 2019
Labor Activists Face Intense Pressure for Another TV Confession, February 22, 2019
Intelligence Ministry Takes Revenge on Labor Activist, February 4, 2019
Torture of Arrested Labor Activists and Their Families Continues, February 1, 2019
Agents Target Jailed Activist's Family in Brutal Attack, January 23, 2019
Iranian TV Airs Forced Confessions of Labor Activists, January 23, 2019
Labor Protests and Arrests Continue, December 12, 2018
Sugar Refinery Workers Face New Round of Harassment, December 5, 2018
Arrest and Torture of Protesting Workers, November 29, 2018