Unions face increasing harassment in Iran
UPDATE: see below for news on Ali Nejati.
Despite the recent thaw in relations between the Iranian regime and western countries, the situation facing trade unionists in the country has worsened alarmingly this month. While we were in Brighton at our annual congress, one trade union leader died in jail in suspicious circumstances, another was arrested and two had existing jail terms extended.
We send our condolences to the family and friends of Shahrokh Zamani, one of the most well-known and respected imprisoned labour activists in Iran, who died on 13 September in Gohardasht (Rajai Shahr) Prison in Karaj. Shahrokh was a member of the Founding Board of the Syndicate of Paint Workers of Tehran.
There is a growing belief that Shahrokh was killed in prison and therefore many hold the Iranian government accountable for his death. In this prison, many prisoners go through severe torture, medical neglect and gross mistreatment by security guards and prison authorities. Shahrokh was found unconscious. He was taken to the prison’s medical centre and doctors announced him dead. The authorities claimed that a stroke was the cause of his death but there are confirmed reports that there were visible bruises on his body.
BWI General Secretary Ambet Yuson said:
“The BWI calls for stronger mobilization against persecution of labour activists in Iran and fully supports the call for an independent international inquiry into this death and the conditions of other jailed labour activists and political prisoners in Iran.”
Meanwhile, Ali Nejati, former President of the Haft Tapeh Sugar Workers Union, was arrested again on 15 September. His personal items, including his computer and his notes, were confiscated. He has heart problem and he needs to take medicine during the day.
UPDATE: On Monday 19 October, we heard that after 34 days in jail, Ali Nejati was released on bail of $32,000. Thanks to all who took action on his behalf.
And two other trade union leaders already in jail had their sentences extended:
- Rasoul Bodagi, Board member of the Teachers Trade Association, originally arrested in 2009 and sentenced to six years a year later, has had three years added to his sentence; and
- Mahmoud Salehi, President of the bakery workers’ union in Saqez, was sentenced on 16 September to nine years in prison on the usual trumped up charges.
This is the reality of life in Iran for working people: a constant struggle for respect and justice at work, persistent abuse by employers such as not paying wages, poor health and safety and long working hours. And if you combine to protest, the authorities help bad employers out by jailing trade unionists.
The TUC has been in touch with the International Trade Union Confederation and the global union federations covering the unions affected in Iran – BWI, IUF and Education International – as well as Amnesty International. We’ll be planning international action, and in Britain, using the reopening of the Iranian Embassy to press the regime to allow trade unions to operate freely, as its membership of the ILO requires.