Permit May Day Labor Observances
(28 April 2008) The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran is appealing to Iranian authorities to allow independent labor activists to gather on 1 May to support fulfillment of their internationally guaranteed rights and express solidarity with one another.
“All around the world, governments permit and respect peaceful May Day observances, but in Iran independent labor activists have repeatedly been beaten, detained, and convicted to jail terms for this activity,” the Campaign stated. “Instead of illegally and violently suppressing May Day observances, the authorities should permit such gatherings and listen to legitimate labor demands, in the interests of social peace in Iran, and salvaging some international respect.”
Recent events show that repression against labor activists is intensifying in Iran. The Campaign has received reports that labor activists have been harshly warned not to demonstrate on May Day, and a traditional pre-May Day gathering on 25 April in Chityar Park in Tehran was prevented by hundreds of intelligence and security agents.
On 23 April, labor activist Sheys Amani was arrested in Sanandaj for his participation in May Day demonstrations in 2007. Although officials have refused a request by his colleagues in the Free Trade Union to gather in May Day, the group has announced its intention to do so because it is their fundamental right, guaranteed under international covenants as well as the Iranian constitution.
On 12 April 2008, police violently broke up a sit-in by workers at Alborz Tire Factory who had not received wages for eight months and demanded back pay and to keep the factory in operation. Security forces detained about 140 workers and only released them after promises not to strike in the future.
Labor activist in Kurdistan, Mahmoud Salehi, completed a one-year sentence on 23 March 2008 for his May Day participation. Eleven of his colleagues demonstrating their solidarity were subsequently arrested and prosecuted, and a flogging sentence was recently enforced.
The Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburban Bus Vahed Company has been under continuous pressure, its leaders subject to prosecution, interrogation and harassment. The Syndicate’s leader, Mansour Osanloo is serving a five-year prison sentence. On 16 April, 2008, Gholamreza Gholamhoseini, a member of the syndicate, was given a six-month suspended prison sentence for distributing the union’s literature.
According to recently released prisoners, labor activist Bakhtiar Rahimi is being held in Evin prison. Rahimi is a member of the Coordination Committee for Establishment of Trade Unions in the city of Marivan in Kurdistan. He actively promoted workers’ rights and participated in related public events. Security agents detained him on 19 July, 2007 in Marivan. The officials have provided no information about the charges against him.
Teachers in Iran have paid a heavy price for activism in the framework of the Teachers Trade Association, which was banned in 2007. In the last year, about 286 cases have been filed against teachers in the judicial system, and many have received suspended prison sentences. More than 700 teachers have had their salaries cut for labor activists, and about 39 have been banned from teaching. Most recently, on 17 April 2008, Mahmoud Bagheri, a member of the Executive Board of Iran Teachers Trade Associations (ITTAs), was given a three-year suspended sentence.
2 May is National Teachers Day in Iran. Teachers in Kurdistan have announced their intention to gather to demand the release of Farzad Kamangar, a teacher who has been sentenced to death. More than 1000 teachers have signed a petition on his behalf. According to Kamangar’s lawyer, Khalil Bahramian, his sentencing is based on “absolutely zero evidence.”
The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran strongly supports this demand, and calls for the release of Mansour Osanloo, Sheys Amani, and Bakhtiar Rahimi and all imprisoned labor activists and unionists. Outstanding unwarranted sentences against labor activists should be dropped. Iranian authorities should abide by their international obligation to honor the basic rights to association and freedom of speech, and to organize independent trade unions. And May Day observances should be permitted, and respected.