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Jul 16 2010

Free them Now – campaign to free labour activists in Iran

For more info, visit blog.

In Iran workers are routinely arrested for going on strike, for building a union or for celebrating May Day. That is what happened to bus workers in Tehran: Over 700 of them were arrested when they went on strike in 2006. Some of their leaders, such as Mansoor Ossanlou, are still in jail, and some have been fired from their jobs. It happened to sugar cane workers when they organised protests over unpaid wages and built a union. Their leaders have spent months in prison and are daily harassed with court summons and heavy bails. Some have also lost their jobs. Teachers who took strike action and held rallies over their pay and conditions have also been put in prison. Over the years, hundreds of workers have met a similar end for exercising their fundamental right to freely organise, strike and assemble.

Arbitrary arrests and detentions, long prison terms, violent interrogations, beatings, even use of lashing to degrade and break down, denial of medical care to sick detainees, constant harassment in the form of court summons, heavy bails and daily threats issued against the workers and their families, and the ultimate weapon of cutting workers off their livelihood by firing them, make up a brutal regime of systematic persecution of labour activists in Iran.

In May this year the regime added to its 31-year record of horrific human rights abuse by executing well-known teacher and labour activist Farzad Kamangar, along with four other political prisoners. The world’s trade unions and human rights organisations had been campaigning for Farzad’s release for years, and vehemently condemned the callous killings.

We, a group of labour activists and campaigners from Iran and around the world, have set up this campaign to highlight the plight of the workers currently in jail in Iran or under the threat of arrest and detention. The aim of the campaign is the immediate and unconditional release of all labour activists who are currently in jail. Some of us are former members of the very unions suppressed by the regime in Iran, who are continuing the fight in exile through this and other campaigns.

Our demand is clear: the terror and violence against workers in Iran must stop! Workers in Iran should be able to freely exercise their fundamental right to set up their own organisations, meet, assemble and protest as they wish, take strike action, organise and take part in rallies, etc., without fear of being arrested and thrown in jail. All jailed workers must be immediately and unconditionally freed!

The following workers are currently known to be held in various prisons and detention centres in Iran. The actual list is much longer. The whereabouts of some remain unknown (The list is regularly updated on our blogs):

From the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs United (Vahed) Bus Company:

Mansoor Ossanlou (President)
Ebrahim Madadi (Vice President)
Saeed Torabian (Spokesperson)
Reza Shahabi (Treasurer)

From the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association:

Ghorban Ahmadi
Ali Akbar Baghani
Hossein Bastani Nejad
Mahmoud Beheshti Langroodi
Rasoul Bodaghi
Mohammad Davari
Alireza Hashemi (General Secretary)
Seyyed Hashem Khastar
Abdollah Momeni

* Another teacher, Abdolreza Ghanbari, was arrested during the mass anti-government demonstration on 27 December 2009. He has been sentenced to death.

Other detained labour activists:

Behnam Ebrahim-zadeh
Mehdi Farrahi Shandiz

We call on all trade unions and human rights organisations around the world and all individuals and organisations appalled by the horrific human rights abuse in Iran to support and sign up to this campaign.

Initial signatories:

Mamad Amiri (Labour activist, Sweden)
Davoud Aram (Labour activist, Canada)
Foroogh Arghavan (Labour activist, Canada)
Masoud Arzhang (Labour activist, Canada)
Naser Asghari (Labour activist, Canada)
Dave Bleakney (Canadian Union of Postal Workers, CUPW)
Shahla Daneshfar (Labour activist)
Pascal Descamp (Labour activist, member of CGT, France)
Salah Fallahi (Labour activist, transport workers’ union, Norway)
Morteza Fateh (Labour activist, UK)
Ahmad Fatemi (Labour activist, member of Unionen, Sweden)
Reza Fathi (Labour activist, former member of a union in Iran)
Farshad Hosseini (Labour activist, Holland)
Mehran Khorshidi (Labour activist, transport workers’ union, Norway)
Yadi Kouhi (Labour activist, France)
Mehran Mahboobi (Labour activist, Canada)
Shiva Mahboobi (Spokesperson, Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in Iran)
Manouchehr Mahdavi Tabar (Former member of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Vahed Bus Company)
Abbas Mandegar (Labour activist, transport workers’ union, Canada)
Shahnaz Morattab (Labour activist, postal workers’ union, Germany)
Arsalan Nazeri (Labour activist, Australia)
Mohammad Nemati (Former member of the Free Union of Iranian Workers)
Saber Rahimi (Labour activist, Norway)
Reza Rashidi (Former Member of the Follow-up Committee to Set Up Free Workers’ Organisations in Iran)
Bahram Soroush (Labour activist)
Abbas Zamani (Labour activist, former member of a union in Iran)

Campaign co-ordinators:

Shahla Daneshfar
[email protected] 0044-77798 98968
Bahram Soroush
[email protected] 0044-7852 338334

8 July 2010

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