Labor Activists’ Appeals Look Bleak

Posted on: November 2nd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Labor activist Ebrahim Madadi’s prison sentence of five years and three months has been upheld in Branch 36 of Tehran Revolutionary Appeals Court.

If the outcome of Madadi’s appeal has come clear, the case of his co-defendant Davoud Razavi is less so: the absence of a judge has delayed the appeals hearing that was scheduled to review his own five-year prison sentence on October 31st of this year.

Madadi and Razavi were arrested April 28, 2014, for labor activism, detained in Evin prison, and released 22 days later on 1 billion IRR [approximately $25,000 USD] bail. Their initial trial was held in Branch 26 of Revolutionary Court.

Madadi is the vice president of the Greater Tehran Bus Drivers’ Syndicate and a longtime labor activist. Saleh Nikbakht, the attorney for both men, told HRANA that authorities have historically founded their allegations against Madadi on his syndical activities– so many manifestations, she said, of their intolerance of syndicates like the Bus Drivers’ Union. Egregious in the eyes of the judiciary, the attorney said, was Madadi’s distribution of sweets at a bus terminal on International Workers’ Day (May 1st) 2014, and his 2015 lobbying at the Labor Ministry for a higher minimum wage. Madadi served a 3-year prison sentence, also connected to his labor activism, that ended April 18, 2012.

Likewise, Revolutionary Court cited Razavi’s participation in the minimum-wage demonstrations as evidence of “collusion and assembly to act against national security.” The publishing of photos from these demonstrations was tantamount to anti-regime propaganda, they said; rallying fellow citizens to attend an International Labour Organization conference was endorsing “the labor opposition movement outside of Iran” (the ILO is an official UN agency). The court offered no other evidence connecting Razavi to a criminal offense.

In a statement dated April 2017, Amnesty International called on Iranian authorities “to immediately and unconditionally release those imprisoned for their peaceful trade union work, and quash the harsh prison sentences […] and allow workers to hold peaceful gatherings, including on International Workers’ Day, and to exercise their right to form and join independent trade unions to improve their living situations.”

Madadi, a sexagenarian, suffers from diabetes, prostate inflammation, and high blood pressure and cholesterol. Secondary to a stroke, he has gone deaf in one ear and suffered partial hearing loss in the other.

Trucker Strikes: Threat of Death Penalty Casts Shadow on 261 Detainees

Posted on: October 15th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Since Iranian truck drivers announced a new wave of strikes on September 22nd, 261 striking drivers in 19 different provinces have been arrested. As authorities threaten detainees with the worst, their tenacious movement continues to push forward, obtaining small victories along the way.

Iranian General Prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri recommended harsh punishment for the detained drivers, previously assessing the strikes as a form of banditry, which he iterated “can be punishable by death.” Ghazvin Prosecutor Mohsen Karami announced that 17 of the detained drivers were being charged with “creating insecurity” and “disturbing public order,” and has called for the death penalty.

In a press release, the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) expressed concern over these threats. “ITF affiliates globally are urging the Iranian government to listen to their truckers’ demands. It is economic solutions that are needed. Not threats of executions.” Transportation unions in the US and Canada, along with multiple news agencies and international federations, have gone public with similar concerns and statements of solidarity with the truckers.

Strikers’ demands have, in some respects, made significant headway. The High Council of Transportation Coordination recently approved a measurement tool for freight transport rates known as the tonne-kilometre (tkm) method, which would ensure more regulated compensation. “Adopting the tonne-kilometer system[…] put an end to 40 years of dispute between truck drivers and companies,” Malek Nakhyi, one of the drivers who will put the new system to use, told Tasnim news agency. “This measure will be a blessing to the Iranian transport industry.”

In talks with news agencies, state authorities claim to already have resolved the tire shortage, i.e. one of the truckers’ most pressing demands. However, Head of the Truckers’ Guild Association Ahmad Karimi told Iran Labour News Agency (ILNA) that only 50 thousand tires have thus far been distributed into a market that is in urgent need of 300 thousand more. “One of the truck drivers’ issues [with the system] is that the tires have no fixed price on the market, and representatives [of tire producers] set the price arbitrarily,” he added.

One truck driver told HRANA that a channel in Bandar Abbas ran a “false” broadcast of customs officials inspecting tires purchased in Iraq and Azerbaijan, with the claim that it was footage of tires being distributed to drivers.

The Truckers’ Guild Association listed 15 demands in its call to strike on September 22nd, among them an increase in pensions, the lowering of tire and auto-part prices, a 70% increase in the freight rate, cheaper insurance premiums, the elimination of go-betweens at terminals, and punishment of officers who arbitrarily demand bribes from drivers.

Iranian Trucker Strikes Push into Second Straight Week

Posted on: October 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – As they make it past the two-week mark, Iranian trucker strikes look nowhere near relenting, and authorities are taking notice.

As of the date of this report, 244 individuals have been arrested in connection to trucker strikes across multiple cities, including but not limited to Shahr-e Kord, Bandar-e Imam Khomeini, Ahvaz, Susangerd, Najaf Abad, Isfahan, Shiraz, Bushehr, Aligudarz, Urmia, Yazd, Zarrin Shahr, Bandar Abbas, Tiran, Miyaneh, Behshahr and Ghuchan.

While broadcasts from state-sponsored news agencies declared on October 6th that the protests were losing steam, the truckers have yet to back down. The same day, the General and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Shahr-e Kord announced that six more protestors had been detained.

Prior to October 6th, 238 individuals connected with the strike had already been detained and booked on charges of corruption on earth, disturbing public order, and banditry. Prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri previously threatened the detainees with heavy sentences, reminding them that their charges are punishable by death. Strikers in multiple provinces are taking the risk: Qazvin, Alborz, Ardabil, Isfahan, Fars, Semnan, Kermanshah, Zanjan, Hamadan, Northern Khorasan, and cities of Nahavand, Bujnurd, Kangan, Pakdasht, Nishabur, Shirvan, Azarshahr, Gorgan, Bandar-e Gaz, Izeh, Razan, and Zaran provinces have seen arrests so far.

At a ceremony for the opening of a tunnel connecting Karaj to Chalus, Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi acknowledged truck drivers’ role in the construction of the tunnel, telling a reporter, “the demands of the truck drivers will definitely be addressed.”

The Ministry of Roads and Urban Development showed less compassion toward the strikers in an October 6th response to Tehran-based Friday prayer imam Kaze Sadeghi, who stated that the Ministry should answer to their responsibilities and address the issue rather than “saying irrelevant things.” The Ministry’s retort statement read, “truck drivers are hardly struggling.”

In an interview with Mehr news agency, Deputy Head of the Iran Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization (IRMTO) Dariush Amani spoke of his organization’s initiative to meet drivers’ demands for tires, including cheaper import prices on cotton-based tires. “Tires have been placed on the list of essential items which will henceforth be imported at the government-subsidized price of 4200 Tomans [$1 USD].”

Ali Khaneghai, a general manager of the Sistan and Baluchestan provincial transportation and terminals department, acknowledged that high tire prices were one of the industry’s most dire needs, and claimed that 1200 subsidized tires have been distributed to drivers. “The drivers can purchase tires at fair prices through the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade with the presentation of their welcome letter from the Driver’s Union.”

Ahmad Jamshidi, Transportation and Terminals Manager of Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiyari province, also commented on tire influx, stating that 2711 tires had thus far been distributed among regional truckers.

HRANA previously reported on authorities’ reactions to the truckers’ continued strikes, which have been active since September 23rd. On that date, 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.

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

Posted on: October 2nd, 2018

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.

At Home and Abroad, Civil and Union Activists Continue to Rally Behind Detained Teacher Mohammad Habibi

Posted on: September 17th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- In the interest of obtaining Mohammad Habibi’s medical treatment and release from detainment, over 1400 Iranian civil and union activists have signed a letter to the attention Iran’s Supreme Leader, as his case steadily gains exposure with syndicates abroad.

Habibi, himself a union activist, educator, and member of the Teachers’ Union Association Board of Directors in the Province of Tehran, is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence ruled Saturday, August 4th in Branch 26 of Tehran Revolutionary Court. In addition to prison time, Habibi’s sentence included a two-years ban on civic activity, a two-year travel ban, and 74 lashings.

Since his detainment, Habibi’s requests for medical furlough have been repeatedly denied. On the one occasion his leave was granted, he was released from Great Tehran Penitentiary, prematurely dismissed from the hospital without receiving treatment, and then transferred to Evin on Monday, September 3, 2018, where he has remained since.

In one letter addressed to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the French trade unions SFDT, SGT, FSO, Solidaires, and UNSA called Habibi’s imprisonment a violation of both human rights and the fundamental freedoms of syndicates, and held the Supreme Leader accountable for his fate.

“Prison authorities continue to refuse him the medical treatment he sorely needs. Without proper care, his condition is at risk of rapid decline,” their letter reads. “We mean to impress upon you that as the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, you are responsible for the life and health of Mohammad Habibi.”

The signatories of the Iranian letter below are currently at 1400 and steadily increasing. Its full text is below, translated into English by HRANA:

“The Noble People of Iran,
Dear Teachers,
Political, Civil, and Union Activists,
Sensible people of the world,

As you know, Mohammad Habibi — member of the board of directors of the Teachers’ Union Association of the Province of Tehran, and protector of the rights of students, retired educators, and currently working teachers– has been subjected to the hostility of authorities and unlawfully detained in the Great Tehran Penitentiary, weakened in body but vigorous in spirit, and was recently sentenced to ten and a half years in prison, a 2-year travel ban, and a 2-year ban on civic activity.

The verdict against this unionist, coupled with the sentences of fellow unionists and political and civil activists, betrays the will to choke freedom of speech with medieval punishments such as lashings, exile, and internment in prisons reminiscent of POW detainment centers– so many efforts to inject fear and trepidation into the civil activist’s drive for justice.

Habibi’s verdict is reminiscent of the heavy sentences imposed on student activists and of the lashes inflicted on Agh Tappeh mine workers, sentences that are the latent dread of every civic society.

These sentences are issued for teachers, workers, students, etc… meanwhile, the thieves, the embezzlers, and the corrupt, in comfort and security, violate and withhold the rights of ordinary people and laborers, continuously lowering the bar on their livelihood.

It is our human duty in such circumstances to raise our collective voice against these cruel punishments, in order to put an end to the imprisonment, flogging, and persecution of sick prisoners.

To intercept a looming human tragedy, the Defense Committee of Mohammad Habibi calls for his immediate medical admission, and with a greater sense of solidarity than ever before will continue to fight for his release as well as the release of other imprisoned teachers.

We call on all free and righteous people to protest the imprisonment and flogging of Mohammad Habibi, and that of other unionists and civil activists, starting with their signature on the “No to Prison and Flogging” petition. Hopefully, this year, Mohammad Habibi’s students will see him again in the classroom, and not behind the bars of a prison.”

****

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 was previously arrested at his workplace on March 3, 2018 and jailed for 44 days in Evin Prison. On April 15, 2018, he was released on a bail of approximately $20000 USD (2.5 Billion Rials) in wait of his trial the following August.