Labor Activists Arrested in Western Iran

Posted on: September 4th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) On Tuesday, September 4, 2018, two labor activists living in Sanandaj (capital of Kurdistan province in Iran) were detained by security forces and taken to an undisclosed location, a close source told HRANA. The source identified the activists as Khaled Hosseini and Mozafar Salehnia.

Hosseini and Salehnia were among five labor activists who were summoned to Branch One of Sanandaj Revolutionary Court on April 28, 2018, shortly before International Workers’ Day (May 1st).

They were previously interrogated on March 5, 2017, by Branch 4 of the Sanandaj Revolutionary Court for taking part in a Nowruz (Persian New Year) festival organized by a workers’ council in Pardis Hall of Sanandaj.

Teacher Mohammad Habibi Transferred to Evin Prison

Posted on: September 4th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Amid hopes that ailing prisoner Mohammad Habibi would be released for medical treatment, he was instead transferred from the Great Tehran Penitentiary to the Quarantine Ward of Evin Prison on Monday, September 3, 2018.

Despite suffering from a kidney condition, the union activist and member of the board of directors of the Teachers’ Union Association of the Province of Tehran was previously denied care on a prior release to the hospital.

A source close to Habibi’s family confirmed news of the Evin transfer to HRANA, adding that Habibi had updated his family on the phone and told them of a pending transfer from the Quarantine Ward to the General Ward, scheduled for Tuesday.

The source detailed Habibi’s difficulties thus far in getting adequate care. “According to a letter from a supervisory court official dated July 8 of this year, Habibi was to receive urgent medical attention. However, for unknown reasons, this letter was never delivered to Habibi. He only saw the letter ten days ago while seeking care at the internal clinic of Great Tehran Penitentiary, at which point he discussed it with officials and was transferred to Imam Khomeini Hospital.

In absence of a practicing nephrologist at Imam Khomeini Hospital, Habibi was examined by a general practitioner who recommended immediate admission for specialized testing and possible surgery. Though eight days have passed since this exam, authorities have yet to follow up on the recommendation, as his family grows ever more concerned about his health.

On August 4, 2018, Mohammad Habibi’s attorney Amir Raeisiyan reported that his client was sentenced to ten and a half years’ imprisonment, despite the fact that the maximum cumulative prison sentence for all of Habibi’s charges would be seven and a half years. At that time Habibi was subjected to the additional penalties of 74 lashings, a two-year ban on civic activities, and a two-year travel ban.

Prior to this, in separate open letters and press releases, the International Trade Union Confederation, the Council for Coordination of Teaching Syndicates, 6,500 teachers and civil society activists, and over 100 educators — all alumni of Shahid Rajai University– demanded his immediate release, and that attention is paid to his medical condition.

Habibi was previously arrested at his place of employment on March 3, 2018, and jailed for 44 days. On April 15, 2018, he was released on a bail of approximately $50,000 USD.

On May 10, 2018, the Council for Coordination of Teaching Syndicates urged teachers, be they retired or employed, to assemble in protest across the country. In Tehran, several of those who responded to the call were arrested and transferred to Evin Prison; all but Habibi were released on bail three days later.

Mohammad Habibi has remained in custody since, and according to a letter from his HR office, is no longer receiving his salary.

17 Days After Arrest, Detained Labor Activist’s Whereabouts Unknown

Posted on: September 3rd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – As far as his family knows, labor activist Behnam Ebrahimzadeh could be seriously suffering, or worse: seventeen days after his arrest near Kermanshah in western Iran, authorities have yet to release word of his wellbeing or whereabouts.

“Mr Ebrahimzadeh has had no contact with his family for 17 days, and his family is unaware of his fate, which makes them very anxious,” a source close to the family revealed to HRANA.

Ebrahimzadeh was arrested on Friday, August 17, 2018, and transferred to a Revolutionary Guard Intelligence Detention Center in Kermanshah the same day.

Ebrahimzadeh, who was born in 1977 in Oshnavieh (West Azerbaijan province), has been detained several times since 2008 in cases related to his labor activism. His imprisonments have previously gained international attention.

On Friday, August 31, 2018, President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers Mike Palecek issued a statement addressed to Iranian authorities, condemning Ebrahimzadeh’s most recent arrest and demanding his immediate release.

In a previous report, a source close to Ebrahimzadeh told HRANA: “He was arrested by security forces around Kermanshah while en route to assist survivors of the Kermanshah earthquake, and taken to an unknown location on Friday, August 17, 2018. After three days of persistent inquiry, his family learned of his detention, but no information about the reason for his arrest is available.”

In May 2017, HRANA announced Ebrahimzadeh’s release from Rajai Shahr Prison after serving seven years in prison.

Sugarcane Industry Strike Going Strong

Posted on: August 30th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – On Thursday, August 30th, workers of the Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Agro-Business (HTSA) organized a protest gathering in front of their factory’s management offices, marking the 13th consecutive day of their strike.

HRANA reports that workers’ representatives sought to conclude the strike under pressure from authorities, but workers were dogged in their resolution to strike until the company agrees to meet one of the workers’ chief demands: to re-nationalize.

When HTSA was sold to the private sector in early 2016, it caused a string of delays in worker payments that have yet to be resolved.

Workers have declared strike multiple times to demand payment of back wages, which authorities from HTSA and the city of Shush have committed but thus far failed to deliver.

In recent months, worker anger was only exacerbated by news that HTSA sections have been sold off to outside companies, reportedly founded by close associates of major HTSA shareholders.

Citing Empty Promises from Authorities, Industrial Strikers Persist

Posted on: August 30th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Workers from the Iran National Steel Industrial Group (INSIG) in Ahvaz and the Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Agro-Business (HTSA) continue to mobilize around enduring contentions with their employers, including delayed wages.

August 29th marked the workers’ 12th day of consecutive striking and pressing for concessions from these two major industries in the southwestern province of Khuzestan.

“Us Haft Tapeh workers pay the price when incompetent managers mess up,” one Haft Tapeh worker told HRANA. “We’re not going anywhere, and if the managers have something to say, let them come and say it to all of us. What kind of murderers are we being taken for when managers who don’t come to work force us to go to Ahvaz?”

Hamid Zarif-Khasraj, head of the local unit of the Shush County welfare and Shush labor office, told HRANA that 6,000 workers are owed three months in back wages, while some of the sugarcane cutters have been working without pay for five. He said his department was “looking into the case” to ensure the latter group gets compensated.

HTSA workers recently learned from their insurance print-outs that their company had changed hands, Zarif-Khasraj said. Concerns over company outsourcing and privatization have been central to the workers’ demands.

According to the country-wide workers’ group Free Labour Union of Iran (FULI), the Shush County governor and other authorities met with workers’ representatives on August 28th. They wanted the strikers to go back to work, but didn’t offer concrete guarantees, FULI said.

When the Shush County governor delivered an address to the workers on Wednesday, in which he made similarly vague promises, he was met with more protests.

Steelworker protest in Ahvaz: Day 11

On August 29th, workers of Iran National Steel Industrial Group (INSIG) in Ahvaz continued their 11th straight day of gathering before Khuzestan’s provincial governorate in protest.

“INSIG is dying by the hands of Bank Melli [its owner],” and “death to the oppressor” counted among slogans being chanted by the workers.

INSIG has been at a detrimental shortage of raw material, stalling both production and worker payroll. The company’s CEO Kasra Ghafoori had previously promised raw material by August 28th.

INSIG is a conglomerate employing about 4,000 workers who have not been paid in months. Long wage delays are what sparked initial protests on Saturday, August 18th, where workers demanded payment of four months’ back wages and a renewal of INSIG’s raw material supply.

Mohammad Habibi Returns to Prison from Hospital without Adequate Medical Care

Posted on: August 27th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – On Sunday, August 26, 2018, Mohammad Habibi’s medical leave from prison was cut short when he was returned to detention before receiving adequate care.

The union activist and member of the board of directors of the Teachers’ Union Association of the Province of Tehran was being treated at Imam Khomeini Hospital. He was recently sentenced to a ten-year prison term and 74 lashings.

Sedigheh Pakzamir, a close associate of Habibi, stated in an online post that it took 45 days for prison authorities to act on the order for Habibi to be transferred to an outside medical clinic. When they finally carried out the order — which stipulates that Habibi receive medical attention — he was returned to the prison without receiving any.

Pakzamir added that Habibi is symptomatic for lung and urinary tract infections. As such, the doctor recommended he undergo a battery of specialized medical tests, including a sonography, on Monday.

Fatemeh Saeidi, Member of Iran’s Parliament (representing Tehran) and of the Parliament’s Education and Research Commission, previously stated that Habibi was being held in a ward housing violent criminals, and that a letter outlining his predicament containing a request for his sentence to be reduced was signed by a number of Parliament representatives and addressed to the head of the Judiciary.

On August 4, 2018, Habibi’s attorney Amir Raeisiyan reported that his client was sentenced to ten and a half years’ imprisonment. Given that the maximum cumulative prison sentence for all of Habibi’s charges would be seven and a half years, he cannot be required to serve longer. Habibi was subjected to the additional penalties of 74 lashings, a two-year ban on civic activities, and a two-year travel ban.

Prior to this, the International Trade Union Confederation issued a letter to the Islamic Republic in objection to Habibi’s heavy sentence, demanding his immediate and unconditional release. Education International, a teachers’ union federation, has also protested the verdict and demanded Habibi’s release.

In a statement, the Council for Coordination of Teaching Syndicates protested Habibi’s sentence, calling it a litmus test for the justice meted by the Iranian Judiciary. This council demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Habibi, stating, “It is as if the judge intended with his verdict to put society on guard, sending the message that if you pursue justice, you will face prison and lashings.”

On July 16, 2018, over 100 teachers, all alumni of Shahid Rajai University, met with a Mr. Abdi, the Minister of Education’s advisor in Union Affairs, and delivered him a letter in defense of Mohammad Habibi. In the letter, the signatories expressed “great concerns regarding Mr. Habibi’s health”, and requested he be transferred to Evin Prison in accordance with his charges. It also implored the Ministry of Education to pursue the demands of the letter to the furthest degree possible, and to keep the signatories and Habibi’s family abreast of their findings.

A letter signed by 6,500 teachers and civil society activists demanding the release of Mohammad Habibi was delivered to Iranian Parliament on July 25, 2018.

On May 10, 2018, the Council for Coordination of Teaching Syndicates urged teachers, be they retired or employed, to assemble in protest across the country. In Tehran, several of those who responded to the call were arrested and transferred to Evin Prison; all but Mr. Habibi were released on bail three days later.
Mohammad Habibi was previously arrested at his place of employment on March 3, 2018 and jailed for 44 days. On April 15, 2018, he was released on a bail of approximately $50,000 USD.

Mohammad Habibi is currently imprisoned in Tehran’s Evin Prison, and according to a letter from his HR office, is no longer receiving his salary.

Truck Drivers Begin Strikes in Mashhad and Isfahan

Posted on: August 26th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – A number of truck drivers have begun strikes in Iran’s second and third largest cities, Mashhad and Isfahan.

on August 25th, truck drivers who work for a department of the Mashhad municipality responsible for collecting dust and construction materials gathered in front of the department to make their demands. A number of truck drivers in the central city of Isfahan also stopped work and gathered on Shapur Street.

Lack of attention to their demands by authorities, severe livelihood problems, low wages and high repair costs are among the reasons behind the strikes.

Videos published on social media show truck drivers also striking in the southwestern city of Ahvaz. HRANA is in the process of confirming these reports.

HRANA had previously reported on the truck drivers’ strikes in the month of June and the reaction of authorities.

Protests by Steel and Sugarcane Workers Continue in Southwestern Iran

Posted on: August 26th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Worker protests continued to rock the southwestern Iranian province of Khuzestan on August 25. Workers of the Iran National Steel Industrial Group (INSIG) in the provincial center of Ahvaz and those of the Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Agro-Business (HTSA) organized protest gatherings to push their demands.

HTSA workers started the eighth consecutive day of protests by gathering on the factory grounds, HRANA reported.

Speaking on the meeting that HTSA union and representatives had with authorities of Shush county and Khuzestan province, Esmayil Bakhshi, a representative of the workers, said: “I feel sorry for the Provincial Governor who sees us as the enemy. He wasn’t even willing to leave his office to see why the workers are on strike. When we ask for an independent workers’ council to be formed it is so that workers’ direct supervision on state managers would prevent such people from becoming managers and disrespecting workers.”

Nonpayment of wages, the outsourcing of some HTSA departments and other changes in the factory are the major issues expressed by the workers.

HRANA had previously reported on the HTSA strikes.

Protest March of Ahvaz Steelworkers

On August 25th, a group of INSIG workers in Ahvaz marched in front of the provincial governor’s office in the city and asked for their back wages to be paid and for the right to form a workers council.

The workers organized a protest march and chanted slogans including “Our country is full of thieves; nowhere in the world is like this”.

“INSIG wages and benefits have not been paid from March to July and our efforts to follow up have been useless,” one of the workers told the state-run news agency, IRNA. “INSIG has currently zero production. We have been promised that raw material necessary for production will be supplied before the end of the year [Persian calendar year, ending on March 21, 2019.] but there is no hope and no positive perspective. The authorities are not accepting responsibility for paying wages and sending the workers back to work.”

INSIG consists of a range of companies and employs about 4,000 workers who have not been paid for a few months. Their protests began on Saturday, August 18th asking for payment of four months of wages and the supplying of raw material.

Steel and Sugarcane Workers Organize Protests in Southwestern Iran

Posted on: August 22nd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Worker groups from two major industries in the southwestern province of Khuzestan organized protests on Monday, August 12th outside the office of the local manager of Bank Melli.

Bank Melli is the current owner of the industrial complex housing the Iran National Steel Industrial Group (INSIG) of Ahvaz and Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Agro-Business (HTSA). Workers from these companies gathered to demand back pay and the right to form independent councils.

August 12th marked the third consecutive day of protests, which workers said they will continue until the company meets their demands.

INSIG’s CEO Kasra Ghafoori voiced to the media his company’s response to the crisis. “I sympathize with the INSIG workers,” he told Iran Labour News Agency (ILNA). “It’s hard to live when you haven’t been paid for four months, but INSIG’s raw materials will be provided by next week.”

INSIG is among a group of companies founded by Amir Mansoor-Aria’s Ahvaz-based investment group. After Mansoor-Aria was displaced from management due to criminal convictions, the Iranian Judiciary assumed control of the company until its recent privatization.

All told, INSIG companies employ about 4,000 workers, none of which have been paid in the past few months. Worker frustrations culminated in a new wave of protests on Saturday, August 18th.

Update:

The workers of Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Agro-Business (HTSA) continued to strike in front of factory management offices on the fourth day of consecutive protests.

Employees across company sections joined in a chant of “You’re a disgrace, Ghafari”, asking for dismissal of the sector’s manager.

The workers demanded the company resolve insurance payments, provide 1,500-day contracts for workers, and communicate transparently on the recent outsourcing of one of HTSA’s sections and the company’s uncertain future.

One of the workers stated that the company has yet to deliver on their promises to secure worker contracts and benefits.

HRANA reported that INSIG and HTSA protests were still active as of Monday, August 20th.

Update: Wednesday August 22, 2018

For the fifth day in a row, workers of the Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Agro-Business (HTSA) gathered in protest in front of the company’s security department.

Payment of delayed wages and stopping the company’s breaking up and privatization are among the demands made by the workers during this protest. The workers are also demanding “intervention by high-ranking provincial authorities on the question of the company’s management,” HTSA’s trade union has said.

Esmayil Bakhshi, the workers’ representative, gave a speech in today’s gathering and spoke of workers that have self-immolated under the pressure of authorities.

“To solve this problem of the workers, they were sent to different departments for a while,” Bakhshi said. “but it turned out that they wanted to fire them. After they chose self-immolation, instead of solving their problems, they asked them why did they want to burn themselves and ruin the company’s reputation?”

“The security department managers have lost or changed their real mission for years now,” Bakhshi said. “The real mission of this department should be to create a safe and secure space for workers for them to do their work in utmost security. For years, however, they’ve tried their best to disrupt the security of workers.”

The worker representative then spoke about the new manager of the security department who has a past in the police force.

“If you are here to follow that same mission, we will support you,” he said. “But you have been a police commander before and are now a manager. This is a working-class environment, not a military barracks. If you stand with workers, we will stand with you. If you stand against workers, we will stand up to you. So, do your real job!”

Esmayil Bakhshi addressed the employers at the end of his speech: “We are ready for negotiations. The only solution is for you to talk to us so that we can solve the problems.”

The workers of HTSA have repeatedly organized strikes and gatherings to protest the contract conditions, worker expulsions, wage delays and privatization of the company assets.

Update: Thursday, August 23, 2018

On Thursday, August 23rd, workers of the Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Agro-Business (HTSA) in southwestern Iran started the sixth day of their strike. A number of authorities, including the agriculture minister, came to visit the workers and follow up on their grievances.

In addition to the Minister of Agriculture, the Governor General of the Khuzestan province and a representative of the Shush County governor’s office met with the workers.

Before the meeting, HTSA workers had addressed an open letter to the authorities.

“The community of Haft Tape workers will stand behind their valiant representatives, absolutely and to the last breath. If they are met with any harm or accusation, all workers of this company will back their representatives and will not stop supporting them under any circumstances,” the letter said.

“Our gatherings have been aimed at demanding our rights and asking for help from the respected authorities. Our demands from the beginning have been aimed at driving out the capitalists from this region and bringing the company back into public ownership. We have been working in a very calm environment, away from threats, violence and anti-government slogans. It is now the turn of the respected authorities of the county, the province and the country to give what is the right of the devout and hardworking workers of this land and to put an end to years of injustice that has brought suffering to the workers, their families and the people of this region,” the letter continued.

“We will follow up on the grievances of the retired workers and payment of their pensions,” Agriculture Minister Mahmood Hojatti said.

Labor Activist Behnam Ebrahimzadeh Detained

Posted on: August 22nd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Former political prisoner and labor activist Behnam Ebrahimzadeh was arrested by security forces around Kermanshah (western Iran) and taken to an unknown location on Friday, August 17, 2018.

According to a source close to Mr Ebrahimzadeh’s family, he was detained while en route to assist survivors of the Kermanshah earthquake that claimed thousands of casualties in November 2017.

After several days of persistent inquiry, his family learned of his detention, but remain in suspense as to the reason for his arrest.

Behnam Ebrahimzadeh, born in 1977 in Oshnavieh (West Azerbaijan province), has been detained several times since 2008. On June 12, 2010, he was arrested and interrogated in solitary confinement for four months, and later transferred to Ward 350 of Evin prison. At the conclusion of a brief trial without a defense lawyer, Judge Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran sentenced Mr Ebrahimzadeh to twenty years in prison. The sentence was later reduced to 5 years in an appeals court.

Over the course of his five-year sentence in Evin Prison, Ebrahimzadeh endured multiple beatings and transfers to solitary confinement. His detention at Evin coincided with the 2014 incident known as “Black Thursday” in which plainclothes agents and Evin Prison staff coordinated a group assault on Ward 350 inmates. Later, he was illegally exiled to Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj, where he was repeatedly harassed and shifted among wards.

Near the end of his five-year sentence, Ebrahimzadeh faced new charges of anti-regime collusion and propaganda, allegedly committed while he was in prison. He contested the charges in the Tehran Appeals Court. On July 31, 2016, the new sentence of nine and a half years imprisonment was first reduced to seven years and ten months, and then to 15 days with a fine of approximately $100 USD (4,500,000 Rials).

Authorities had also accused Mr Ebrahimzadeh of “violating a detention order” and “using satellite equipment and game cards” during his time in Evin.

More recently, on September 24, 2017, Ebrahimzadeh was released from a ten-day detainment after being arrested along with several others in front of Rajai Shahr Prison, where they were rallying in a demonstration of solidarity with prisoners on hunger strike.