Jafar Azimzadeh, a major labor organizer who as President of the Free Union of Workers of Iran coordinated a campaign for raising the minimum wage, was sentenced to 6 years in prison in 2015 for “intent to act against national security” and for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic”, both of which violate Iran’s Islamic Penal Code.
He has been on hunger strike against his imprisonment for 51 days in Evin Prison, a site where many other political prisoners are also held.
This week he published an open letter from his confinement, fiercely condemning Iran’s President Rouhani and his government.
An open letter to Mr. President
As a labor activist, I am aware of the government’s attitude towards the protests of workers’ and teachers’ unions. I am the coordinator of the protest petition of 40 thousand workers to increase wages. As I also happen to have witnessed the government’s attitude towards this petition personally, I would like to remind you of some tips and to let the public community judge your statement on the government’s approach towards union protests …
In addition to extensive political and security measures for labor protests in the past three years, the heresy of dealing with such protests in Rouhani’s government was so unprecedented during the last two decades that the judiciary in Khuzestan province has attempted to officially ban labor protests at the workplace. I stress that the official announcement of the labor protest was issued by the Judiciary to all labor centers. As I mentioned in paragraph 2, such decisions towards labor protests are not made by the Judiciary but it is reached by security institutions, the governor and general offices. After that, the order will be implemented when the judicial formalities have been made.
After three years in Rouhani’s government, most efficient activists of independent organizations affiliated to workers and teachers have heavy political and security charges and prolonged convictions. The majorities of these activists have been detained by the Ministry of Intelligence and have been convicted of gathering and colluding with intent to act against national security. Their cases have been also referred to revolutionary courts and demanded the maximum penalty. This specific case is a heresy made by Rouhani’s government during the past three years. All efficient activists in independent organizations have been detained and framed unconditionally by the Ministry of Intelligence and they have been also deprived of the lowest level of assertiveness as well as the union activities of collecting signatures to fulfill demands, contribution and advice to others, social interaction with other union members and limited gatherings in the premises of the Ministry of Labor and the parliament.
Azimzadeh’s mother has written him a letter expressing her support that has been made available to the public. In it, she expressed concern about her son’s treatment, as well as that of other labor activists, who often suffer corporal punishment by Iran’s government.