Labor Activists Remain in Prison for May Day Gathering
Jafaar Azimzadeh, president of the Free Workers Union of Iran, and Jamil Mohammadi, a member of the same organization, have been transferred to Evin’s Ward 209 for interrogations, according to the Free Workers Union of Iran.
More than 25 workers were attacked and taken into custody on Thursday, May 1, during a peaceful gathering in front of the Labor Ministry and the Azadi Square bus station. A number of workers, including Ebrahim Madadi, a Tehran Bus Workers Union board member, and Reza Nematipour, a worker at the bus company, were severely beaten by security forces at the gathering.
An eyewitness told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that all the detainees were taken to Evin Prison and kept in the courtyard, while their families waited outside the main gate. “Finally several hours later at 10 pm all the workers belonging to the Tehran Bus Company were released,” he said. However, Azimzadeh and Mohammadi are still being held at Evin.
Many workers’ organizations had announced their intention to hold a peaceful gathering in front of the Labor Ministry and the Azadi Square bus station at 10 am on May 1 several days in advance. Yet security forces and plainclothes agents who had surrounded the Labor Ministry since earlier that morning attacked the workers.
The violent assault took place on the same day that President Hassan Rouhani gave a speech at Azadi Stadium, in which he stated “Workers, through their free associations, should be able to voice their concerns to Labor Ministry officials in a more comfortable and clear manner.”
Mansour Osanloo, a prominent labor activist, told the Campaign that according to his sources in Tehran, more than 100 workers left the stadium in protest against Rouhani’s speech, which did not include any mention of wage increases or other legitimate labor demands.
Last March, the Supreme Labor Council approved a 25% increase in the minimum wage, even though the official inflation rate announced by the Central Bank is 35%.
More than 40,000 workers signed a letter addressed to the Minister of Labor insisting that the increase was unfair and unreasonable. When their letter remained unanswered, labor groups decided to hold the Labor Day protest.
(This piece has been updated on May 16 2014)