Trade unionism should not be a crime

Submitted by Matthew on 25 October, 2014 - 1:20 Author: Gemma Short

Shahrokh Zamani and Reza Shahabi are just two of many who are in Iranian jails, locked up by the government for organising independent trade unions and workers’ organisations.

Whilst trade unions are not technically illegal under Iranian law, state sponsored unions are used to quash independent unions. Activists like Shahrokh and Reza are charged with offences such as “propaganda against the state” and “acting against national security by establishing or membership of groups opposed to the system.”

Shahrokh was initially arrested in June 2011 and charged with “acting against national security by establishing or membership of groups opposed to the system” and “spreading propaganda against the system”. He was sentenced to eleven years in jail starting in January 2012. Shahrokh is a founding member of the Paint Workers’ Union in Tehran.

Since he has been in jail Shahrokh has been further charged with “insulting the leader”. Shahrokh has suffered interrogation and torture, and has been moved between prisons unexpectedly several times. In March and April 2014 Shahrokh went on hunger strike over one such move, demanding he be placed in a prison wing for political prisoners.

Shahrokh’s hunger strike left him weak and with health problems, during his hunger strike he was refused access to medical treatment unless he ended the hunger strike.

Workers’ Liberty has been campaigning for Shahrokh’s release, gathering support from student and labour movement organisations.

Reza Shahabi has been in jail since June 2010, charged with “propaganda against the state” and “acting against national security”. He is the treasurer and executive board member of the Bus Workers’ Union in Tehran.

Reza was brutally beaten during his arrest and in subsequent interrogations. He has been left with multiple health problems, including severe neck and back pain from spinal injuries. He has repeatedly been denied access to health care. Twice during his time in prison Reza has resorted to hunger strikes to get access to urgent medical treatment. In September this year he finally got some of the surgery that he needs.

Workers’ Liberty will be campaigning for the release of both Shahrokh and Reza, and for all charges against them to be dropped. We aim to collect 10,000 signatures by 11 February 2015. This date marks the anniversary of the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

It is now officially celebrated as a nationalist and religious event – but it should belong to the Iranian working class, who overthrew the Shah in 1979 and are resisting the ruling class of the Islamic Republic today.

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