In Iran, protests of any kind are seen as a threat to the regime, so anyone involved in them is quickly arrested, beaten or otherwise intimidated in order to stop anyone from speaking out against the regime. Change is feared, as the people attempt to express their concerns and issues. Some are rather serious, as workers protest working conditions and low wages or lack of wages at all.
On Thursday, April 20, the center for a group of supporters of the rights of child laborers and street children was shut down by State Security Force. There is no information about why the center was shut down, but one can easily surmise that it was seen as a threat by the regime.
In response to multiple issues that have surfaced regarding workers’ rights, a group of political prisoners announced their solidarity with workers’ demands and asked that the voice of political prisoners be conveyed to all.
Their statement read, in part, “This is the voice of the protest of all those who are in prison…The voice of all workers, teachers, and social activists who have been prosecuted under the name of acting against national security…and who are arrested and imprisoned and sentenced to long prison terms, where they have to spend the best years of their lives.”
They noted that the sentences issued for political prisoners are examples of securitizing the struggle against poverty and the pursuit of happiness and we demand that these sentences are voided.
As part of the statement, they included several key requests. One was for a retrial and cancellation of the security dossiers of the political prisoners and that of all workers, teachers, and social activists. They also requested an end to all the threats, persecution, and arrest of social activists and unfair trials.
“We also request an end to the poor condition of all prisons, and that all ailing prisoners receive medical care, have a right to prison leaves and to see their families and an end to physical and mental pressure on prisoners,” said the prisoners’ statement.
In the fall of 2016, labor activists were put on trial after hundreds of workers protested unpaid wages. The activists were put on trial for allegedly inciting workers to strike. “Mr. Azimzadeh was already prosecuted and jailed for all the charges mentioned in this case. You cannot prosecute someone twice for the same crime, but the security establishment is not very concerned about following the law or respecting rights; they recycle these cases to make it easier to prosecute those who continue their activities,” according to an article by the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Independent unions are not allowed to function in Iran, workers are routinely fired and risk arrest for striking, and labor leaders are prosecuted under national security charges and sentenced to long prison terms.
In its statement, the Free Workers Union of Iran condemned the authorities’ prosecution of workers as enemies of the state for attempting to improve labor conditions. “The actions by the security and judicial institutions are an insult to the general public and millions of workers and teachers,” said the statement.