Crackdown on Labor Activists in Iran
Amid an intensifying campaign of political repression in Iran, state authorities have been summoning, detaining, and imprisoning peaceful labor rights activists and a journalist in various cities throughout the country.
A lawyer who has represented several labor activists could also soon be sent to prison for doing her job.
“I’m not going to be the loser, no matter what the Appeals Court decides,” Zilabi said in an interview with Emtedad in September 2021. “All I did was consciously carry out my duties as a lawyer within the framework of the law. What’s important is that lawyers should defend their independence.”
The intensified pressure on labor rights activists in smaller cities in Iran comes on the heels of increasing dissatisfaction and unrest among workers suffering from crushing inflation and low wages.
A leaked document about a recent meeting of senior Iranian security officials has meanwhile revealed state authorities’ heightened anticipation of mass protests due to the deteriorating economic conditions.
According to the document, Col. Kaviani of the police security division said in the meeting: “In the last four months of the year [ending March 20, 2022], we predict there will be 55 economic protests. This year there will be a 22 percent increase in economic protests compared to last year.”
Following is a list compiled by the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) of labor activists who’ve recently been targeted by state security agencies for peaceful actions.
On February 9, three labor activists in Sanandaj, Eghbal Shabani, Issa Moradi, and Ramin Karimi, were summoned to the city’s Intelligence Ministry office to intimidate them and dissuade them from continuing their peaceful labor rights activities, according to the Free Workers Union of Iran (FWUI).
That same day a video was published on YouTube and social media apps showing Karim Sayyahi, a steel workers’ representative in Ahvaz, southwest Iran, making the following statement in the presence of the Khuzestan province governor and members of the Khuzestan Province Security Council, according to the Freedom Messenger channel.
“… We toiled and suffered and went to prison and went through misery. I wish those who blindfolded us and put us on trial would instead prosecute those who destroyed this and other companies.
For several days they’ve been calling and making threats. Don’t try to scare us with threats. Prison is for real men, not cowards. [Audience clapping.]
You officials! Do something about the daily suffering of the workers. Enforce the [pay raises]… I’m a steelworker… I should have a higher salary because of my strength to work with heat over 1300 degrees [centigrade, 2372 Fahrenheit] in 70 degrees [centigrade, 158 Fahrenheit] weather… Do you know that my salary doesn’t last two days?
Do something to fix our livelihood as quickly as possible. You know that our potential is great. We are capable of doing a lot of things… and no one can stand up to the workers!”
On February 7, 2022, Alieh Eghdamdoust, a labor activist and expelled teacher, was arrested by security agents in Fouman, northern Iran, and taken to an unknown location, according to the FWUI.
At an unknown date in early February, labor affairs reporter Asal Mohammadi was sentenced to 20 months in prison on charges of “assembly and collusion against national security” and “propaganda against the state.” She would have to serve a year in prison if the sentence is upheld on appeal.
“She did not have access to a lawyer during her detention and based on Article 48 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, I was not allowed to study her case to prepare for her defense,” Mohammadi’s lawyer, Iman Soleimani, told the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA).
In addition, 64-year-old Azam “Nasrin” Khezri Javadi, a leading advocate for retiree rights and a member of the FWUI, was summoned to prison to begin serving a five-year sentence she received on the charges of “assembly and collusion against national security,” “disturbing public order” and “propaganda against the state.” She has also been condemned to 74 lashes.
On January 26, the FWUI reported that Osman Esmaili and Mahmoud Salehi, two labor activists in Saqqez, Kurdistan province, were tried on the catchall charge of “propaganda against the state.” They are currently out on bail until the court makes its ruling.
On January 9, Intelligence Ministry agents had arrested labor activist Khabat Shakiba in Sanandaj, the capital of Kurdistan province, and transferred him to an unidentified location, HRANA reported.
Read this article in Persian