Stakes and Arrests Climb Higher as Truckers’ Strike Enters 11th Day

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – The Iranian truckers’ strike entered its eleventh day on Tuesday, October 2nd, catching fire in additional cities where 15 more were arrested and public prosecutors have begun threatening participants with the death penalty. The total number of arrestees is now at 171.

Cities currently host to strike activity and its corollary transport stoppages include Tehran, Isfahan, Arak, Qom, Bandar Abbas, Sirjan, Mashhad, Yazd, Tabriz, Sari, Kashan, Bukan, Khosroshah, Dezful, Rezvanshahr, Karaj, Dorood, Marvdasht, Garmsar, Khorramabad, Meshkat, Naqadeh, Malayer, Bandar Imam Khomeini, Ardakan, Sirjan, Shahr Babak, Shirvan, Sanandaj, Gorgan, Shahroud, and Zarinshahr.

Police Commander of Kangan county Colonel Rezaei confirmed that two people in his jurisdiction had been arrested and had their vehicles seized. Heydar Asiyayi, Semnan Province’s General and Revolutionary Prosecutor, confirmed 11 arrests in his locality, as did Alireza Mazaheri, police commander of North Khorasan province. According to the Prosecutor of Razan County, Hamedan Province, said seven more drivers have been arrested and charged with “acting against national security.”

Hadi Mostafavi (General and Revolutionary Prosecutor in Nahavand, Hamedan Province) and Ali Pakdel (police chief of Bojnord, Northern Khorasan Province) recently confirmed that four people had been arrested in each of their respective cities. Eighty-one citizens had already been arrested this past week in the provinces of Qazvin, Alborz, Ardebil, Isfahan, and Fars, as well as in Pakdasht Country, Tehran province.

Arrestees in the latter-named regions stand charged with both “disrupting order and security” and a second charge that has been known to carry the death penalty: Qata al-Tariq, i.e. “banditry” or highway robbery.

Iran’s National Prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri evoked Qata al-Tariq as a charge that could potentially be leveraged against the strikers. He was echoed by Fars Province Judiciary Head Ali Alghasimehr, who added that strikers were exposing themselves to charges of “corruption on earth,” also punishable by death.

Kerman Province’s Revolutionary and General Prosecutor Dadkhoda Salari also reminded truckers of how high the stakes of their strike might go, saying “anything that disrupts public order could be considered enmity against god or corruption on earth, based on the article 286 of the Islamic Penal code.”

Death threats from on high continued into Monday when Judiciary head Sadeq Larijani ominously put truckers on guard that they “disrupt[ing] roadway security.”

Strikes have been active since September 23rd when the Iran National Truck Driver’s Trade Union called on truckers to cease their operations until authorities fulfilled a list of 15 conditions, including an increase in pensions, a decrease in part prices, a 70-percent increase in wages, a decrease in insurance premiums, and a crackdown on bribery in the industry.

HRANA has been able to confirm the strike’s disruption of usual commercial activity, per interviews with industry professionals: Head of Tehran Poultry Farm Union Mohammad Yousefi recently stated that food prices have risen as a result of the strike, due to stalled cross-country transports of chicken meat, while a group of Afghan merchants complained that the strike has stalled the transport of their goods to Afghanistan.

According to Minister of Industry, Mine, and Trade Mohammad Shariatmadari, the truckers’ long-awaited supply of tires is already available thanks to improved distribution via the Iran Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization (IRMTO), a subsidiary of the Roads and Urban Planning Ministry. Soon, he predicted, 80 million dollars will be allocated to the import of tires every month.

According to previous comments from Deputy Head of IRMTO Daryoosh Amani, the Industry Ministry refused to fulfill truckers’ past demands for tires. Yet Seyyed Hassan Hosseini Shahroudi, vice-chair of parliament’s Economic Committee, imputed both the IRMTO and the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development for falling short of truckers’ needs. More than 153 MPs backed the truckers’ demands in a letter addressed to President Hassan Rouhani, which was recently read to parliament by Akbar Ranjzade, a member of the Islamic Consultative Assembly Presidium.

In another recent speech, Ranjzade delivered a double-edged message to a gathering of truck drivers in Asadbad, Hamedan province. In one breath he promised their demands would be addressed; in another, he made it known that they were flirting with capital punishment.

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