The International Trade Union Federation (ITUC) has called on Iranian authorities to release labor activists and uphold their rights, and promised to continue monitoring the situation and support workers in Iran.
On November 11, IranWire sent a letter on behalf of the Free Union of Iranian Workers to the ITUC concerning the Iranian government’s treatment of Iranian laborers, and its policy of classifying activism as a threat to national security.
“Jafar Azimzadeh, the president of the board of directors of the Free Union of Iranian Workers, is currently serving a six-year prison term in the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran,” the letter stated, “while Parvin Mohammadi, vice president of the union, is on the verge of being arrested to serve a one-year prison sentence. Nahid Khodaju, another member of the board of directors, has been sentenced to six years in prison and 74 lashes in addition to being banned from joining any social [civil society] organization. Shapur Ehsanirad, another member of the board of directors, has been sentenced to six years in prison and two years of exile in a remote location. Azam Khazri Javadi (Nasrin Javadi), one of the members of the union, has been sentenced to seven years in prison and 74 lashes while being banned from joining any social organization. Legal proceedings have been launched against several other members of our union, including Mehdi Fakhri, Farhad Sheikihi and Hadi Soleiman for their participation in the May Day 2019 gathering.”
The letter also highlighted security forces’ and the judiciary’s continuous assault on members of the Free Union of Iranian Workers since it was first established in 2006. “Many of the members of this labor organization have been arrested and prosecuted,” the letter reads. “The repression has become so extensive that the security forces and members of the judiciary have openly threatened the arrested union members that they will destroy their union. In fact, the extent of repression and assaults on workers in Iran is not limited to the Free Union of Iranian Workers. It includes all labor organizations and workers in various industries and their supporters.”
In addition to providing information about the targeting of the Free Union of Iranian Workers, the letter provides details of other arrests and incidents of harassment. “On May 1, 2019, security forces assaulted the labor gathering in front of the parliament in Tehran and arrested more than 50 workers, retirees, and students. Legal cases were opened against all of them, many of whom have now received heavy sentences. We will name a few: Atefeh Rangriz has received a sentence of 11 years and six months in prison and 74 lashes; Marzieh Amiri: Ten years and six months in prison and 148 lashes; Hassan Saidi: five years in prison.; Rasul Taleb Moghaddam: Two years in prison, 74 lashes and two years of exile; Alireza Saghafi: One year in prison; Haleh Safarzadeh: One year in prison. In addition, Neda Naji has been in detention for the last six months without any trial.”
The Free Union of Iranian Workers’ letter also reminded the ITUC about the ongoing treatment and arrests of Haft-Tappeh sugar cane factory workers, and their temporary release on very heavy bails, holding the Iranian government responsible and urging the ITUC to remain attentive to the plight of union workers: “This type of brutal repression of workers by the government takes place while the government sends so-called ‘representatives’ for workers to international gatherings and presents a false picture of the situation for workers in Iran. This government aims to prevent our voices from reaching you and other international labor and human rights organizations.”
ITUC Responds to IranWire
When IranWire appealed to the ITUC about the situation for Iranian workers and their unions, Sharan Burrow, the ITUC’s General Secretary, responded immediately. “We are aware of this repressive situation and regularly demand both the release of those in detention and respect for freedom of association. We will follow up on your requests.”
ITUC has published on the abject plight of Iranian workers and union activists on various occasions. In their 2019 ITUC Global Rights Index, Iran appeared together with three other countries (Cambodia, China, and Zimbabwe) as being among the most severe cases where workers had no or restricted access to justice. Moreover, Iranian companies HEPCO, Haft-Tappeh, and the National Steel Group were also among the 35 worst companies worldwide when it came to the violation of workers’ rights. “Iranian authorities are notorious for their relentless persecution of labor activists in the country,” the report said. “Many activists have been arrested and imprisoned without trial, sometimes in remote and secret prison facilities where they have been tortured”.