The following is the translation of the statement by the Free Union of Workers of Iran (Ettehadieh Azad e Kargaran e Iran) following the sentencing of Jafar Azimzadeh, the President of the Free Union, for his trade union activities. Our campaign condemns this blatant attack by the government in Iran on the Free Union and worker activists, and demands the immediate revoking of these sentences, and the release from prison of all worker activists currently in prison for defending workers’ rights. We call on all trade unions and human rights organisations around the world to condemn this latest attack on the Free Union and Jafar Azimzadeh and to demand an immediate end to the persecution of workers and labour activists in Iran.
Six years in prison and a two-year ban on trade union activity for Jafar Azimzadeh
Statement by the Free Union of Workers of Iran
Jafar Azimzadeh, the President of the Free Union of Workers of Iran, and one of the coordinators of the 40,000-signature minim-pay rise campaign, has been sentenced by Branch 15 of the Revolution Court to a total of six years in prison: five years on the charge of gathering and collusion with intent to act against national security and to disturb the public peace, according to Article 610 of the Islamic Penal Code, and one year in prison on the charge of propaganda against the Islamic Republic, according to Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code. He has also been banned for two years from membership of political parties and groups and of activity on the cyberspace and the media on the charge of illegal activities, according to Article 23 of the Islamic Penal Code.
The five-page ruling by Branch 15 of the Revolution Court is based on the following instances: the building of the Free Union of Workers of Iran, the National Union of Unemployed Workers and the Committee to Follow Up the Formation of Free Labour Organisations; taking part in the International Workers’ Day rally in Laleh Park in 2009, leading workers in the 2005 protests, organising, planning and managing workers’ gatherings under the current government and threatening to call rallies and strikes in March 2013, collecting 40,000 workers’ signatures for a petition and leading the rallies outside the National Assembly and the Labour Ministry, threatening the Labour Ministry in a letter to the Labour Minister to hold a rally on this year’s International Workers’ Day outside the Labour Ministry in protest at the announced [level of the] minimum wage, lodging a complaint, on behalf of 1,000 workers, against Saeed Mortazavi and others who have plundered the Social Welfare Fund to the tune of 3,000 billion Toman, protest at even worse anti-labour amendments in the Labour Law, meeting with other independent workers’ organisations, such as the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs United Bus Company, Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Workers Union, the Co-ordinating Committee to Form Free Labour Organisations, the Committee to Follow Up the Formation of Free Labour Organisations and giving interviews to the website of the Free Union of Workers of Iran and a number of international news media.
In the court ruling the attempt has been made to link Jafar Azimzadeh to a left organisation in the beginning of the 1979 revolution, when he was 12 to 13 years old, stating that “he was born with Marxist views”, so as to portray all of his legal and legitimate activities as a political action against the system, and thus as a basis for his prosecution.
This attempt by the intelligence and judicial officers of Branch 15 of the Revolution Court has been made at a time when there is not even a shred of evidence in his file or in the court ruling that Jafar Azimzadeh has acted against national security in the guise of trade union activity. According to the documents in his file, the interrogations and the instances cited in the court ruling, all that has led to the detention and trial of Jafar Azimzadeh and the six-year sentence against him is nothing but defending the right to life of workers in Iran and the right of millions of working-class families to a human existence.
The handing of such a sentence against Jafar Azimzadeh and the continuation of the policy of detaining members of independent workers’ organisations, such as Koorosh Bakhshandeh and other members of the committee, the mass trial of 28 workers of Chador Malou mine, the detention of Milad Darvish in the teachers’ legitimate protest in front of the National Assembly, the flogging sentences against Raazi Petrochemical workers, the collaboration of the Labour Ministry with the employers of Zagros Steel to lay off the workers of the company, the detention of the workers of Esfahan Polyacryl Company, the detention and threatening of the workers of Loushan Cement, the disgusting puppetry by the hired workers’ representatives in the Supreme Council of Labour, and the conniving by the [government’s] Labour House to impose a disgraceful pay on the working class in Iran, the detention of Jamil Mohammadi and the handing of a three and a half year sentence against him, the detention of Shapour Ehsanirad, Parvin Mohammadi and Tehran bus workers on May Day, the re-sentencing of jailed worker Behnam Ebrahimzadeh to a further nine and a half years in prison, harassment of labour activist Mohammad Jarahi in the central prison of Tabriz, the appointment of one of the highest ranking intelligence officers to the post of Labour Minister, and the full deployment of intelligence and security personnel in this ministry, etc., these actions mean nothing other than forcing the workers to yield to absolute slavery and declaration of an open war on the life and livelihood of the working class in Iran by the so-called ‘prudence and hope’ government of the marauding capitalists.
Undoubtedly, just as the repressions so far by the rulers against workers’ leaders, representatives and activists have failed to impede the struggle of the workers in Iran for a human life, as witnessed in the ongoing protests and strikes by thousands of workers and teachers around the country, so the sentences against Jafar Azimzadeh and Jamil Mohammadi will not dent the resolve and determination of workers and members of the Free Union of Workers in their defence of the right to life and livelihood of workers.
The Free Union of Workers of Iran, while condemning the six-year prison sentence and the two-year ban on activity against Jafar Azimzadeh, declares that it will not remain silent on such vicious sentences against Jafar Azimzadeh and Jamil Mohammadi, and will protest against these sentences both inside Iran and by taking this case to the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Our Union will not let these two staunch labour activists, who are among the distinguished leaders of the Free Union of Workers and the workers’ movement in Iran, to be sacrificed to the repressive interests of a pillaging minority, who by imposing extreme poverty on millions of working-class families see no other tasks for themselves in running the country than ripping off workers of their meagre earnings.
Jafar Azimzadeh and Jamil Mohammadi have not committed any other crime than round-the-clock struggle to improve the condition of workers, and curb the raids on workers’ bare tables by the plunderers, through such campaigns as the 40,000-signature petition and legal protests for a rise in the minimum wage and by launching complaints against those who have ripped workers off. The conviction of these two activists and the passing of the six-year sentence against Jafar Azimzadeh in the space of only 13 days is happening at a time when no action has been taken after one year in response to the complaint by Jafar Azimzadeh, Jamil Mohammadi and their colleagues, on behalf of 1,000 workers, against Saeed Mortazavi and others who have ransacked workers’ savings in the Social Welfare Fund, leaving them to continue to live in their billion-Toman homes on the spoils they have pocketed.
There is no doubt that taking such brutal measures against workers who have complained against those who have robbed them of their earnings, and who are demanding an end to the economic oppression against millions of working-class families, will not only not force us workers to surrender to the existing oppressive situation, but will add to the hatred and disgust of the workers and people of Iran towards the current situation.
The Free Union of Workers of Iran
15 March 2015
Translated from the Farsi original by Free Them Now! – Campaign to Free Jailed Workers in Iran