This is the fifth report in ISICRC’s continuing series on the national labor movement in Iran. Click here to read part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.
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December 17th – Thirteen Ahvaz steel workers were arrested during a night raid on their homes. Other workers whose residences were raided were not at home at the time. Two of the area residents who witnessed the raids began an impromptu protest; two of the residents were also arrested.
In the morning, workers assembled outside the Ahvaz city hall to protest the arrests, and 12 more were detained. The chief of the IRGC in Ahvaz stated that the arrested workers would be released on bail before the day’s end; however, no one was released.
December 18th – More workers were arrested in Ahvaz in night raids, bringing the total number of those detained to 41. Many workers are said to be spending their nights wandering the streets because they are afraid of being attacked and arrested at home.
The US State Department condemned the arrests.
Yesterday, #Iran’s regime arrested steelworkers who simply asked to get paid for their work. Sadly, this is how the regime has always mistreated the Iranian people. The U.S. supports their rightful demands. Iranians deserve to live in peace and dignity. # کارگران #betheirvoice
— Robert Palladino (@StateDeputySPOX) December 17, 2018
The 150,000 members of the national truck and bus drivers’ union remain on strike. In addition to their own complaints over poor wages and high costs of spare parts and repairs, today they demanded the release of all workers arrested in Ahvaz and Haft Tappeh as a precondition before they consider returning to work.
Shahab Shams, automobile parts manufacturer based in Tehran’s suburb, Karaj, shut down today, losing 260 workers their jobs. The workers had not been paid for the previous seven months.
Hundreds of retirees protested today in Tehran. In addition to slogans about their low pensions and severe rising costs of living, they chanted: “our enemy is here, not in the United States”, “free all political prisoners”, “health care is our right and education is our children’s right!”
— کمپنیوز (@CampNews1) December 18, 2018
Another retiree protest also occurred in Mashhad, with pensioners demanding a guaranteed minimum income and free healthcare, halting the arrests of protestors, and an end to privatization of social services.
December 19th – In response to the protests yesterday, 204 Islamic Parliament (Majles) members issued an open letter to Hassan Rouhani criticizing his policies and saying he is not doing anything to help the suffering elderly Iranians.
December 23rd – Gholam Reza Shariati, governor of Khuzestan, announced that all of the arrested Ahvaz steel workers have been released. However, the workers union stated that only 14 of the 29 detained workers had been released while 15 others remain in prison.
December 24th – An Islamic court of appeals upheld the sentence of teacher Mohammad Habibi to ten years imprisonment, 74 lashes, and a two year foreign travel ban. Habibi had been arrested after the first teachers strike in May.
Shahed Alavi, a freelance journalist, reported today that Esmail Bakhshi was force-fed hallucinogenic drugs during his prison interrogations, and that he is now suffering from psychotic breaks as a result. Bakhshi’s bank account has also been frozen, rendering him unable to pay to cover his medical treatment.
#Esmail_Bakhshi, union leader from Haft Tapeh sugarcane delivered a speech about worker’s peaceful protests before getting arrested. He has been tortured to death in prison. Under house arrest, is unable to pay his medical bills since all his accounts are blocked. @IndustriALL_GU pic.twitter.com/IRc64tScHx
— Iranian American (@IranLionness) December 24, 2018
Police in Khuzestan are undertaking a massive gun confiscation campaign. The governor’s office today announced that over 2000 people have been arrested over the past few months for alleged possession of illegal weapons. However, it appears that that is a pretext for this wave of arrests that are meant to suppress various strikes in the province.
December 26th – Unemployment continues to rise as Iran’s economy spirals downwards. One hundred workers were let go today at the Kavush factory in Qazvin, of the 150 remaining employees, only one third are being paid. One hundred and eight employees at the Mahshahr pipeline in Khuzestan were also laid off today. The national petrochemical organization announced the closure of several bitumen factories, making several hundred workers unemployed.
December 27th – Teachers in Esfahan protested the sentencing of Mohammad Habibi, outside the Ministry of Education. The protest was dispersed by the police with tear gas, and several of the protesting teachers were arrested.
Workers at the Moghan state-owned agribusiness complex in Khorasan went on strike today. The complex is due to be privatized, and workers fear that they may soon end up in the same state as those at the formerly state-owned privatized Haft Tappeh complex. The complex privatization has already run into difficulties, with one buyer pulling out after only paying a small portion of the price, and a second buyer having to be found to pay not only the cost of the land but the first buyer’s debt.
December 29th – More retiree protests in Tehran, Mashhad and Ahvaz today. Students joined the pensioners in their protest.
Today’s protests at Tehran’s #AzadUniversity, students & their parents demonstrate with “Velayati, Velayati (main advisor to Supreme Leader #Khamenei,) you’re responsible for these crimes!” #IranProtests #Tehran pic.twitter.com/NWd6GsJyZg
— Lisa Daftari (@LisaDaftari) December 29, 2018
December 30th – Three hundred municipal workers in Neyshabur have gone on strike after not being paid for two months. Massoud Nosrati, deputy head of the national office of municipalities and villages, stated today that municipalities across Iran are facing huge difficulties in finding funds to pay their employees.
The family of former Ahvaz steel workers union leader Ali Nejati was finally allowed to meet with him in prison today. They reported that he has been subjected to torture, is extremely thin and pale, and has been transferred to the Shush prison hospital for heart disease. Despite suffering from weak kidneys and heart troubles, Nejati stated that he had been placed in cells with multiple cigarette smokers. He has been charged with disturbing public order and propaganda against the state.
January 2nd – Retirees continued protesting in Tehran and Mashad. Two elderly men in Tehran were arrested, and crowds were beaten by police when they rushed to protect the two men, while they were being dragged away.
“Workers, teachers, students, unite, unite.”
Protests in front of Iran’s parliament. The more #Iranians unite, the harder it will be for the regime to crush the widespread opposition to its rule. pic.twitter.com/L4WtF7PChR
— Alireza Nader (@AlirezaNader) January 2, 2019
The staff of the Imam Khomeini hospital in Karaj also continued their protest today; they have been on strike over non-payment of wages for more than four months now.
January 3rd – Iran Air pilots today protested over non-payment of wages and lack of concern for safety regulations from airline management.
Retirees protested again today in Tehran, and delivered a letter to the Social Security Organization, railing against what they described as 40 years of mismanagement. Workers have been paying into the social security funds throughout their careers, yet today the organization claims it is bankrupt without providing any explanation of where its funds went.
S.H.Ghazizadeh Hashemi, minister of health&medical education:
“People shouldn’t expect us to pay their pensions because we don’t have money. We used to pay retired what they deserved when we had resources. We are honest and have no money to pay for their retirement and rights.” pic.twitter.com/ZaxMXuQV1O
— Raman Ghavami (@Raman_Ghavami) December 29, 2018
January 4th – Esmail Bakhshi issued an open letter on Instagram addressed to Mahmoud Alavi, press secretary of the ministry of interior, insisting on holding a televised public debate with the Minister of Intelligence. In the letter, Bakhshi described the unspeakable torture he endured at the hands of intelligence ministry agents. “They kicked me so much it was painful for me to sleep. Today, nearly two months later, I still feel pain in my kidneys, my left ear, and my testicles…I still suffer from severe mental and psychological attacks.” The Khuzestan judiciary still denies that Bakhshi was abused. He remains on bail while charged with ‘acting against national security’.