Labor Activists in Peril as May Day Approaches
Allow Independent Workers Day Celebrations
(30 April 2009) Iranian workers will observe May 1st, International Workers’ Day, as the government increases its suppression of independent labor movements, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said in a new report (available in Persian) today.
During the past year, workers previously attempting to celebrate May Day were prosecuted, and sentenced to prison and lashings. The prominent labor leader Mansour Ossanloo remains in prison, as well as other labor organizers including Ebrahim Maddadi, Farzad Kamangar, and Ghaleb Husseini. On 16 April 2009, more than 73 workers in the city of Sanandaj were arrested as they met privately to plan May Day celebrations.
“May Day provides Iranian workers a chance to put forward their demands and to express solidarity with one another publicly. To deny them the right to have independent, non-governmental celebrations, and to arrest and prosecute them for this, is a violation of their freedom of expression and their right to assembly and association, which are guaranteed under International Labor Organization conventions of which Iran is a member,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s spokesperson.
The report documents the repression of various independent labor organizations, including:
- summons, arrests and prosecutions of workers and members of the Haft Tapeh Sugar Factory;
- arrests, sentencing and imprisonment of members of the Tehran Bus Drivers Union;
- summons and imprisonment of members of the Free Workers Union;
- summons, detentions and prosecutions of other labor activists and journalists covering labor-related news;
- banning teachers’ professional associations and central coordinating committee, and detentions and prosecutions of teachers.
Last year, two workers planning to participate in May Day celebrations, Ghaleb Husseini and Abdulah Khani, were arrested and prosecuted in the city of Sanandaj. On 21 February 2009, Husseini was sentenced to six months imprisonment and 50 lashes, and Khani was sentenced to 91 days in prison and 40 lashes. Both lashing sentences were carried out on the same day, and they were subsequently taken to Sanandaj central prison to serve their sentences.
On 16 April 2009, more than 70 workers visited the family of Ghaleb Husseini to express solidarity with his family and to plan for upcoming May Day celebrations. Security forces attacked Ghalibi’s home, detaining all of those present. After fingerprinting the detainees and interrogating them, the detainees were released in the evening.
On 23 April 2009, eight workers in the city of Naghadeh and members of a coordinating committee were summoned to the local intelligence office. They were interrogated about their plans to celebrate May Day and intimidated in an attempt to prevent any celebrations. The eight workers are: Sadiq Khosravi; Khosrow Bukani; Omar Ismail-pour; Ebrahim Esmail-pour; Asaad Mowlud-pour; Jalil Sharifian; Khalil Sharifian; and Mustafa Sharifi.
Ten independent labor organizations, having formed the Committee to Celebrate May Day, have called for a public celebration in Laleh Park in Tehran on May Day. The Free Workers Union has also announced that representatives of ten factories, together with Tohid Hospital workers in Sanandaj, wrote a letter on 20 April 2009 asking local city officials to issue a permit for public celebrations. So far the authorities have not replied to this letter.
Noting attacks on independent workers celebrating May Day in previous years, and their arrests and prosecutions, the Campaign expresses its serious concerns regarding the possible repeat of such actions during upcoming May Day events. The Campaign urges the Iranian authorities to allow independent workers organizations to hold peaceful public assemblies on this day, in accordance with rights guaranteed by the Iranian constitution as well as Iran’s obligations under international treaties and ILO conventions. The government should immediately issue permits for May Day assemblies and prevent any attacks or violence directed at participants.