November 29, 2022 – More than three months into anti-state protests across Iran that state security forces have been unable to crush despite the use of lethal force, oil workers, truckers, public transportation workers, and factory workers are joining other labor groups now waging strikes across the country.
“These workers are the backbone of the Iranian economy,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). “The fact that so many workers are striking even while labor leaders are among the thousands who’ve been arrested since September speaks to the level of discontent against the government.”
While strikers’ demands have primarily focused on the longstanding issue of unpaid wages, chants of “Death to the dictator” can be heard in video footage of truck drivers on strike at the Akbarabad Terminal in Tehran on November 22, echoing the anti-state slogans that have characterized the ongoing protests in Iran.
Solidarity with Iran’s Protest Movement Expressed by Strikers
On November 23, 2022, the Union of Truck Owners and Drivers of Iran issued a statement calling for nationwide strikes as of November 26 to protest the government’s lack of response to the problems facing its members.
“How can we ignore the plight of our innocent colleagues and other people in Kurdistan, Baluchistan and Izeh and other blood-stained cities?” said the statement, referring to the ongoing lethal state crackdown on protests in multiple provinces, in which security forces have killed at least 451 people, including women and children, according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency.
“The strikers, who along with the young women and men who have been protesting against the Islamic Republic’s tyranny, have shown incredible bravery in the face of the state’s ongoing violence, and they require meaningful international solidarity,” said Ghaemi.
“This includes ejecting the government of Iran from the International Labor Organization’s (ILO) governing board, and expelling the Islamic Republic from the UN Commission on the Status of Women,” he added.
“As long as Islamic Republic security forces continue to gun down peaceful protesters and throw labor leaders behind bars, governments around the world should employ all diplomatic means of condemnation,” Ghaemi said, “including recalling ambassadors for consultations and summoning Iran’s diplomats for censure.”
Since mid-September, when the death of Mahsa (Jina) Amini in Iranian state custody sparked nationwide anti-state protests, strikes have occurred in the following industries according to social media postings by Iranian labor rights groups:
Oil and Gas
Home Appliance Manufacturing
Food and Snack Manufacturing
November saw an uptick in labor strikes, with at least 20 reported in cities across at least 12 of Iran’s 31 provinces, including Tehran; Yazd; Kerhmanshah; Kurdistan; Isfahan; Hormozgan; Fars; Khuzestan; Bushehr; Qazvin; Alborz; and East Azerbaijan.
According to Article 27 of Iran’s Constitution, “Public gatherings and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.”
Yet peaceful labor activism is treated as a national security offense in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where independent labor unions are not recognized, strikers are often fired and risk arrest, and labor leaders are prosecuted under catchall national security charges and sentenced to long prison terms. These actions are all in profound violation of the ILO’s Fundamental Principles.
While it is unknown how many laborers have been arrested in total, at least 12 labor rights activists have been arrested since September, according to research by CHRI:
Davoud Razavi – Tehran
Erfan Kahzad- Karaj
Neda Naji – Tehran
Abed Tavancheh – Tehran
Mozaffar Salehnia – Sanandaj
Lotfollah Ahmadi -Sanandaj
Zanyar Dabbaghian – Sanandaj
Khabat Dehdar – Sanandaj
Amir Chamani – Tabriz
Hossein Koshi – Tabriz
Kamran Sakhtemangar – Sanandaj
Salah Zamani – Sanandaj
Meanwhile, imprisoned labor activist Reza Shahabi was transferred from Evin Prison in Tehran to Imam Khomeini Hospital for spinal issues on November 27, according to the Free Workers Union of Iran’s Telegram channel.
The channel had previously reported on November 24 that imprisoned labor activist Nasrin Javadi, also in Evin, was suffering from severe influenza. It is not known whether she was allowed to receive proper medical treatment.
“The Islamic Republic is making a mockery of the international institutions to which it belongs by violating every one of their most basic principles,” said Ghaemi. “To maintain their credibility these institutions should take immediate action against the government of Iran.”