Imprisoned trade unionist Shahrokh Zamani.
Iran continues its violent repression of trade unions
Most of the news stories you see about Iran will be about the regional politics, Islamic extremism, or repression of political protest. But what you will see far less of is the brutal repression of free trade unionism, which doesn’t fit into the prevailing narrative. The most recent example is the treatment of hunger striker and jailed trade unionist Shahrokh Zamani, who led the paint workers’ union of Tehran until his arrest in 2011.
Zamani, whose case has been taken up by the Building Workers’ International, International Trade Union Confederation, Amnesty International – who consider him a prisoner of conscience – and Iran solidarity campaigners CODIR, has now concluded his hunger strike having lost 22 kilos. He started it in solidarity with people jailed for exercising their freedom of religion, but he was picked on by the authorities and transferred to a prison for violent criminals.
His only actual crime was standing up for his fellow workers, but that isn’t permitted in Iran, as it is considered to be “acting against national security by establishing or membership in groups opposed to the system” and “spreading propaganda against the establishment” – the catch-all charges he was originally convicted of three years ago. He was sentenced to 11 years in Iran’s horrendous prison system, along with a colleague, Mohamad Jarahi, who got five years.
Amnesty and others are now calling for Zamani to be released, and the BWI and ITUC want him to get his old job back, too. They want him to avoid the sort of physical harassment leading to long-term disablement affecting transport workers’ leader Reza Shahabi.
The situation facing trade unionists in Iran doesn’t get much publicity, but the regime there deserves international opprobrium for continuing to attack its own working people even while it shows a more conciliatory face to the rest of the world. Workers’ oppression anywhere affects us everywhere.