Iran: IRI is exploring new tactics to crackdown on workers,Basij paramilitary forces getting prepared to suppress workers’ protests

www.kalalekhabar.ir is a local news agency linked to the ruling establishmen01t in Iran. It publishes news concerning the city of Kalaleh, Golestan Province, north-east of Iran. On February 5, 2016, Kalaleh Khabar published an alarming news (please see the link and pictures below).

The news covers a mock operation conducted by Basij, which is a nation-wide paramilitary organization, formed in November 1979 by the order of the former supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI), Ayatollah Khomeini. Basij’s leadership and its full-time forces are extremely notorious for their violent treatment of dissenters and bloody, savage attacks against activists of progressive social movements under the pretext of internal security and law enforcement.

 The above exercise by Basij militias exhibited that Basij members were assaulting a group of protesting factory workers (labelled as “rioting workers”) which resulted in beating and arresting the aforementioned workers. The report proudly emphasizes that Basij conducted these exercises in order to become fully prepared in mobilizing its anti-riot forces against protesting workers in future.

These terrorizing exercises, and similar maneuvers, are organized by the anti-worker Iranian regime while the majority of workers in Iran, in both public and private sectors, are trapped in precarious forms of employment, especially with the ever-growing temporary contracts and part-time jobs. In total, about 90 percent of the estimated 25 million workforce in the country are employed under temporary contracts. The overwhelming majority of Iranian working people are living in poverty. The minimum wage is currently four times below the poverty line and tens of thousands of workers are denied their wages for months while millions of workers in workshops with less ten employees are exempted from protections stipulated in the labour law.

 The right to organize independent worker organizations and the right to strike are denied by the IRI and all workplaces, particularly in manufacturing sector, mining, transportation, urban transit, public services, schools and universities, are scrutinized by security and intelligent forces. Labour activists are targeted and persecuted on a daily basis. Currently a number of mine workers from Bafgh and Khatoon Abad are facing prosecution for demanding their most basic rights such as job security; many representatives of teachers are harassed and imprisoned; Tehran bus workers’ union (Vahed Syndicate) is under constant scrutiny by the intelligent forces and their activists are targeted, threatened and persecuted routinely and their leading representatives, such as Ebrahim Madadi, Davood Razavi and Reza Shahabi, have all been facing new charges in recent months, and there are fears that they may face new prison sentences again.

02Veteran labour activist Mahmoud Salehi, despite all previous imprisonments and the loss of both kidneys due to intentional lack of medical care by prison authorities, is now fighting back against a new nine-year jail term. Jafar Azimzadeh, chairperson of the Free Union of Iranian Workers, is serving a six year prison sentence since November 8, 2015. Behnam Ebrahimzadeh and Rasoul Bodaghi both received new prison sentences while already in jail. Mahmoud Beheshti Langroodi, who was temporarily released following his hunger strike in December 2015, was denied an extension of his furlough and forced to return to Evin prison on January 14, 2016, and justice has been denied for Shahrokh Zamani who was killed in prison in September 2015. The list of the targeted labour and union activists in Iran goes on and it’s ever growing.

 The public display of the anti-riot exercise of paramilitary groups like Basij against protesting workers is extremely alarming and must be faced with strong condemnations.  It’s important to point out that “Basij” is the paramilitary force of the Islamic Republic of Iran.  The Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran includes its “conventional” army and law enforcement forces as well as “Islamic Revolution Guards Corps”. In addition, IRI has numerous other forces including plain clothes agents who are not accountable even to armed forces. All of these forces, including Basij, have historically been used for suppressing demonstrations and social movements.  Ironically, Basij claims to be having millions of volunteers (although its numbers are seriously contested) who are supposed to be ordinary civilians; however, many of the people who are registered with Basij are under-aged and only enrol in this so-called “volunteer work” for receiving certain benefits and privileges that are exclusively available to Basij and similar government forces. In the past, IRI had generally avoided publicity and promotion about using members of Basij against workers in public scenes, and the above exercise was the first blatantly publicized manoeuver against workers by Basij. The fact that Basij members are openly and publicly trained to attack workers’ strikes and protests in Iran is alarming and need to be flagged, further analysed and confronted.

Currently many governments, including the European Union and various multinational corporations, are seeking renewed economic partnerships with the IRI, following the post-Iran nuclear deal. The Iranian labour movement has always maintained a principled position that the confrontations and power struggles between the US and its allies and the Iranian regime had nothing to do with the human rights or the rights of the working people in Iran or elsewhere. Iranian working class suffered tremendously as a result of economic sanctions imposed by the US and its allies; the Iranian regime and its rich and powerful authorities did not suffer a bit; the rich undeniably got much richer and more powerful in Iran in recent years, partially because of Western imposed sanctions. Now that a nuclear deal between western powers and IRI has been reached and Iranian workers are seeking their legitimate demands and asking their inalienable rights to be met, the neo-liberal Rouhani government is viciously attacking them and preparing for further mass repression of workers’ movement in Iran. There are numerous examples to show this growing trend in recent months; for instance, In November 2015, Justice Department of the Khuzestan province issued an order banning protests by petrochemical workers in “Imam Khomeini Port”. The judiciary called workers’ protests for the payment of their unpaid wages “illegal” and warned that any “illegal” assembly or actions that would disturb companies’ affairs will be prohibited.

 The plight of workers in Iran and their most basic rights under international conventions are not a concern for the multinational corporations and their capitalist and neo-liberal governments. As workers, we can only rely on worker-to-worker solidarity on a global scale in order to counter such onslaughts against Iranian workers. The government of the IRI needs to notice and pay attention to strong condemnations regarding its intensifying attempts to intimidate and crack down on workers who are standing up for their inalienable rights, including the right to organize, strike and to a living wage. Armed forces and paramilitary groups like Basij and plain clothes agents and officers must be pressured to leave workers alone, and workplaces across the country must be immune from their presence, interventions and interferences.

http://goo.gl/jd6EOo

http://goo.gl/KYMlkk

 International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran (IASWI)

February 13, 2016

info@workers-iran.org;

www.workers-iran.org;

twitter.com/IASWIinfo;

facebook.com/IASWI

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