Several Detained Without Access to Counsel One Week After Labor Day Protests
Several workers’ rights activists including teachers who were arrested at rallies in Tehran on May 1 (International Labor Day) and May 2 (Iran’s Teachers’ Day) remain in detention without access to legal counsel, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.
The protests, which also occurred in several other Iranian cities, were primarily against the government’s refusal to raise wages to offset the effects of hyperinflation due to governmental mismanagement of state funds as well as sanctions.
Arrested on May 1 in Tehran, Mohammad Shahabi, a board member of the Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (UWTSBC), was released on bail May 7.
But on May 6, the Free Workers Union of Iran (FWUI) reported via its Telegram app channel that its deputy chairperson, Parvin Mohammadi, board member Nahid Khodajou, as well as activists Nasrin Javadi, Neda Naji, Atefeh Rangriz and Farhad Sheikhi have been behind bars for the past week.
Police and plainclothes security agents arrested the protesters at the Labor Day rally in the capital by violently repressing the gathering soon after it began at the Baharestan metro station near Parliament.
“The security and judicial agencies should be aware that workers will not stop demanding their rights and they will take appropriate action if their colleagues are not immediately released from detention,” the FWUI warned in a statement on May 6.
Shargh newspaper reporter Marzieh Amiri, arrested while covering the May 1 protest in Tehran, has been in Evin Prison’s Ward 209 under the control of the Intelligence Ministry since May 1.
According to Article 27 of Iran’s Constitution, “Public gatherings and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.”
But security forces and the judiciary respond to peaceful labor activism by treating it as a national security offense, independent labor unions are not allowed to function, strikers are often fired and risk arrest, and labor leaders are consistently prosecuted under catchall national security charges and sentenced to long prison terms.
“Why doesn’t the Interior Ministry issue permits for these rallies in accordance with Article 27 of the Constitution?” asked Mostafa Kavakebian, a reformist member of Parliament (MP), during an open session on May 5.
“It is my request that any worker or teacher arrested in front of Parliament be freed,” he added.
On the other hand, conservative MP Nader Ghazipour said the arrests were justified.
“No action has been taken against any gathering except when slogans were chanted against national security,” he said.
Several people were also arrested at the May 2 Teachers’ Day rally in front of the Ministry of Education, including formerly imprisoned teachers’ rights activist Rassoul Bodaghi and two members of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association (ITTA), Mohammad Fallahi and Mojtaba Ghoreishian.
Bodaghi was released on bail May 5 but there is no information on the fate of his colleagues.
People in Iran have been struggling to make ends meet after the collapse of the local currency, the rial, which lost nearly 70 percent of its value against the dollar after Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal in November 2018.
The resulting inflationary pressures have led to a rise in black-market trading of foreign currencies and gold, which the government has tried to stamp out with arrests and harsh sentences, including executions.
The United Nations has warned that low-income Iranians will have difficulty accessing essential goods, including medicine if mechanisms are not established to ensure that humanitarian aid can be delivered despite sanctions.