On Saturday, January 19, 2019, the news section of national TV “Voice and Vision of the Islamic Republic of Iran” called “20:30” broadcast a shameful show titled “Tarahi Soukhteh” (a burnt plot) through which it aimed to connect the legitimate struggles of Haft Tapeh Sugarcane workers and other workers in Iran for payment of unpaid wages, against privatization, and against looting and plundering of national industries not only to the opposition parties abroad, but also insolently and shamelessly to the American imperialism and the racist state of Israel. They are also attempting to use the forced confessions of well-known workers such as Ali Nejati and Esmail Bakhshi which were detained through threats, beatings and torture, against them and other labour activists in Iran.
They have created a fake chart full of contradictions, without a single shred of rationality, in which they have amateurishly put together a series of names, without considering the role of massive embezzlement and theft in government and how such malfeasance has contributed to workers strikes and protests throughout Iran. Their aim was to make viewers believe that Sugarcane workers’ strike in Haft Tapeh was aiming to overthrow the government through collaboration of some of these workers with other labour activists across Iran, including with members of our union! What is never mentioned in this show is how the theft and looting of properties that belong to workers and people of Iran which is carried out under the banner of “privatization,” in which assets are sold for a fraction of their real value through guaranteed heavy loans to those with close relationship with the state, is the root cause of workers’ protests and strikes.
Bus workers’ syndicate’s contacts and connections with other workers and labour organizations in Iran and around the world is an transparent and accepted norm of solidarity among workers of the world and a part of the customary workers’ solidarity efforts to achieve their legitimate rights. Vahed syndicate since its inception has always strived to maintain its autonomy from all governments, employers, capitalists and all political currents, always prioritizing bus Workers’ interests and the common demands of all workers of the country, which includes payment of delayed and unpaid wages, the right to form independent workers’ organizations as well as standing against the devastating privatization policies.
Nevertheless, since the reestablishment of Vahed Syndicate in 2005, many of our members have been the target of government’s relentless attacks, harassment and subject of intelligence and security forces’ repression and judicial persecution. From violent attacks on our members’ houses at nights, to incarceration in solitary confinement and severe and brutal beatings in interrogations, to flagrant attacks on workers’ gatherings, expulsion from work, long term jail sentences…have all been used against our membership. Complaints by international labour organizations against these repressive actions and continued violation of our basic human and workers’ rights continue to be open and unresolved files under consideration in the “Freedom Committee” of the International Labour Organization (ILO), which we are vigorously pursuing and will continue to do so, certain that the recent cases of Sugarcane and Steel workers, i.e. forces “confessions” obtained under torture and the overall repression of workers of Haft Tapeh and Ahvaz steel industries will be added to these complaints.
Our message to the government, Judiciary and the Intelligence forces is that, instead of persecution of workers and union activists, sham allegations and making up baseless cases against workers and producing such shameful amateurish “documentaries,” do something to prevent further theft and massive looting of public assets. All of this only displays the authorities’ desperation in dealing with real problems and issues of the country.
Forming independent labour organizations and the right to protest are internationally recognized and inalienable right of all workers around the world, including workers in Iran, and we as an independent labour organization and a member of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) continue to inform workers around the world and the international labour movement of all the harassments and persecutions of our members and other workers in Iran.
Vahed Syndicate strongly condemns this deplorable television “documentary” and forced confessions, and vigorously denies all accusations against our autonomous and militant syndicate and consider it our right to officially complaint against the government television station and the judiciary for authorizing its broadcasting. We firmly condemn the violent arrest of Esmail Bakhshi, Ms. Sepideh Gholian and her brother Mr. Mehdi Gholian, and demand their unconditional release and freedom of Ali Nejati and all other incarcerated workers, teachers, labour activists and their supporters.
Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company
Bahman 1, 1397 (January 21, 2019)
Background Information from the International Alliance for Solidarity with Workers in Iran:
Urgent: Esmaeil Bakhshi and Sepideh Gholian re-arrested on Sunday, January 20, 2019
The Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Workers’ Syndicate reported yesterday that at 11:55 PM, Sunday January 20th, 2019 a caravan of fifteen patrol cars full of armed security and intelligence forces raided Esmaeil Bakhshi’s house and have taken him away to an undisclosed location.
The Haft Tapeh workers syndicate stated that such blatant display of armed repression is an indication of utter desperation from capitalists and their sponsors in their response to workers’ legitimate demands. “What is the meaning and aim of an armed attack on the residence of a worker in the dark of the night? Sugarcane workers Syndicate strongly condemns this attack and demands the immediate and unconditional release of Messrs. Esmail Bakhshi, Ali Nejati and all other incarcerated workers.”
Crucial Background information:
Esmaeil Bakhshi, a representative of Haft Tapeh Sugarcane workers, was incarcerated for almost a month, between November 18, 2018 to December 12, 2018, and subject to most horrendous forms of physical and psychological torture during his detention. Upon his release Mr. Bakhshi issued a statement challenging the Minister of Intelligence to a live television debate (see the link below) about his torture while he was incarcerated. Mr. Bakhshi’s bold response has garnered him tremendous public support and also caused a massive, public response about the issue of torture under the Islamic Republic of Iran
In order to discredit Esmaeil Bakhshi and the claim of torture in Iran’s detention centers, on 19 January, 2019, the state television aired a so called “documentary” in which Bakhshi and Ali Nejati, a member of the board of directors of Haft Tapeh Sugarcane workers, along with a few others, were shown, confessing to their “crimes” of connecting with “Marxist” and “communist” groups in Iran and labour activists abroad. But since the public knows very well these statements were made under torture and threats, there has been a great backlash against the government and increased public sympathy for Esmaeil Bakhshi, Ali Nejati and other tortured detainees.
The Islamic Republic of Iran and its intelligence and judiciary forces are aiming not only to discredit Sugarcane workers’ protests by this “documentary” but also to use it as a prelude and as an excuse to unleash a massive, nation-wide campaign of repression against all protesting workers and their supporters. In that so called “documentary” they have also plotted against Ahvaz steel workers and their strike actions.
Ms. Sepideh Gholian, an independent journalist and social activist, who was also arrested on November 18, 2018 because of her solidarity efforts in support of sugarcane workers, was subject to inhumane physical and psychological torture during her detention as well. Ms. Gholian’s response to airing of this “documentary” was to emphasis the fact that all her statements while she was incarcerated were detained through torture. In response to her continued defiance government security forces attacked Ms. Gholian’s residence on 20 January, 2019 and arrested both she and her brother (both of them and their mother were beaten and bloodied). On the same day Esmaeil Bakhshi’s house was also raided, on 11:55 PM, by a caravan of fifteen patrol cars, packed with armed security and intelligence forces, who detained Mr. Bakhshi and have moved him to an undisclosed location.
The international labour movement knows really well about the anti-worker and repressive policies and practices of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its bloody history of repression in the past forty years, and all the reports and evidence at the moment points to yet another massive nation-wide campaign of repression at work. We urge all progressive individuals, Human Rights institutions and Labour unions and organizations to stand with incarcerated Iranian workers and their supporters, and to demand their immediate and unconditional release.
More updates to be issued soon.
International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran (IASWI)
January 21, 2019
For more information, also see Zamaneh:
Greek Translation of Above letter: