Haft Tappeh Labor Activists Beaten at Khuzestan Intelligence Ministry Center, Say Relatives
Editor’s Update: Esmail Bakhshi was released on bail on November 21, 2018, and Sepideh Gholian on December 18. Both were freed on bail.
Detained labor activists Esmail Bakhshi and Sepideh Gholian were beaten during interrogations at the Intelligence Ministry’s detention center in the Iranian city of Shush, Khuzestan Province, according to relatives who visited them on December 4, 2018.
“We have received reliable information that when Bakhshi and Gholian’s relatives … visited them for a short period they noticed that they had both been badly beaten and put under intense physical and psychological pressure,” said the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Workers Union via a statement published on the organization’s Telegram channel.
“During family visitation, they [the prisoners] could not even recognize what time of day it was,” added the statement. “They continue to be under pressure in solitary confinement.”
It continued: “Sepideh Gholian has become very thin and weak and she was in obvious pain when her mother hugged her. Also, Bakhshi was in a very serious physical condition and still had visible wounds on his head.”
The two were arrested on November 20, 2018, during ongoing demonstrations by workers demanding unpaid wages from the Haft Tappeh sugarcane mill. Bakhshi is a senior member of the union, and Gholian is a labor rights activist.
Independent unions are not allowed to operate in Iran, strikers often lose their jobs and risk arrest, and labor leaders who attempt to organize workers and bargain collectively are prosecuted under national security charges and sentenced to long prison sentences.
Eighty international labor organizations have signed a letter addressed to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei calling for all workers and teachers who have been arrested in Iran for peacefully protesting for their rights to be released.
“We urge the repeal of unjust sentences issued in violation of basic freedoms and rights and the immediate and unconditional release of all activists held behind bars for their trade union activities in defense of wage earners,” said the letter published on December 1.
The Iranian Teachers Organizations Coordination Council also issued a statement on December 4 expressing solidarity with the protesting sugar mill workers and condemning the abuse of detainees.
“We emphasize that workers, students and teachers have different demands depending on their field but that they also have common ones such as the right to earn a living above the poverty line, to demand an end to privatization efforts, the release of trade union activists, formation of independent organizations as well as universal free quality education.”