Iranian trade unionist Shahrokh Zamani was imprisoned in June 2011.
Many workers like Zamani have been imprisoned, and some tortured, on charges of “propaganda”, “endangering national security”, and “participating in an illegal organisation”.
Iran’s clerical rulers are no more friends of labour rights than they are of women’s rights, religious freedom, or LGBT rights.
The labour movement in Iran was instrumental in the overthrow of the hated despot Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The strikes that took place and the workers’ councils that were set up in 1978-9 brought the country to a standstill, hastening the end of Imperial Iran.
The Islamists took advantage of the weakness of independent working-class organisations to set up councils run by employers and the security services. As these councils are often observed closely by the government, workers quite understandably put little trust in them, instead keeping their grievances to themselves for fear of being sacked as troublemakers.
Labour leaders like Zamani, as well as others like Ali Nejati (a member of a sugar cane factory trade union in Iran) and Reza Shahabi (a member of Tehran’s bus workers’ union) are often imprisoned when they attempt to organise outside activity.
Because of the neo-liberal economic policies and the corruptness of Iran’s rulers over the last decade, and the US-led sanctions, pressure on the Iranian working class has increased.
During the eight years of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, the poverty rate went from 22% to 40%. Youth unemployment is 26% (even according to the official figures) and unemployment generally is 12.2%.
The economy shrank by 5.4% last year. Inflation is officially 42%, and 60% for food prices.
When workers try to hit back and organise, they are treated as Shahrokh Zamani is treated. The Islamic Republic is aware that the workers of Iran were once powerful enough to topple one dictatorial regime, and could do so again.
Repression of labour rights is an important tool for the government to keep itself in power.
Shahrokh Zamani was a house-painter and a member of the Committee to Pursue the Establishment of Workers’ Organizations, a group campaigning for the establishment of independent trade unions in Iran.
In prison he has suffered conditions such as visitors being banned for 10 to 20 days in a month; a ban on phone calls to his family; and transfers from one prison to another every few months.
The length of his sentence has recently been arbitrarily increased. Medical treatment that he needs is often delayed.
Workers’ Liberty is currently involved in a campaign to get 10,000 signatures to petition for his release.
We hope not only to get him released, but to send a message of internationalist solidarity with the workers of Iran against their repressive regime and in support of independent trade unions in the country.
Reza Shahabi, a transit worker and a member of the board of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, has been in Tehran’s Evin Prison since 12 June 2010 because he advocated workers’ rights and supported the demands of his fellow workers.
Reza has suffered from an array of health problems, including severe back problems.
Due to severe symptoms, on 19 October 2013, Reza was transferred to hospital. Physicians have recommended that Reza is in no condition to be returned to prison: without hospital treatment, his entire left side could become paralysed.
The International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran are demanding Reza’s release. Please support their protests.