Monthly Archives: November 2010

2 Days to Save Shahla Jahed

End all executions
End all executions

Shahla Jahed is due to be executed in Iran on December 1st, while the eyes of the world are on her fellow Iranian, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. Jahed had a temporary marriage with Nasser Mohammad-Khani, an Iranian footballer, and has been charged with murdering his full-time wife. She has withdrawn a confession made under torture, stating in court “everyone knows the conditions under which I confessed.” She has now been imprisoned for nine years.

Send protest emails to:

Head of the Judiciary in Tehran

Mr Ali Reza Avaei

Director, Human Rights Headquarters of Iran

Mohammad Javad Larijani

Please copy all emails to the Iranian Embassy in London:

Yassamine Mather: Sanctions take their toll

Yassamine Mather calls for international solidarity with Iranian workers

Over the last two weeks the number of strikes in Iranian factories and workplaces has risen considerably. Workers have taken action in major plants such as South Pars Gasfields, Alborz Lastic Sazi, Ghaem Shahr textiles, Safa Louleh (pipe manufacturers), as have city council workers in Abadan. Demands have also been raised by nurses and other hospital workers, teachers and civil servants.

Some of the most important oil and gas plants have been hit, as well as key manufacturing industries. In other words, both the traditional and modern sectors. In addition to these strikes, we have also seen the first protests by retired workers opposed to a reduction in price concessions for pensioners, reduced from 15% to 9%. Retired employees demonstrated outside the majles (Islamic parliament). In some ways this was as important as the strikes by workers in employment.

How should we analyse the fact that so many workers’ protests have occurred simultaneously? Is it just a coincidence? Of course, it is impossible to predict how things will evolve, but, given the level of repression against workers and the left, these events mark a significant development in the current stage of economic and political struggles inside Iran. So what are the factors behind this new wave of labour unrest?

There is no doubt that sanctions are creating widespread economic devastation, to a degree that is unprecedented over the last 30 years. The drop in the price of oil on the world market, the reduction of production levels for both oil and gas (itself a result of the failure to renew productive capacity), the fall in non-oil exports, bankruptcies and closures in production and manufacturing, the rise in the rate of inflation in housing and essential goods, the plunder of the country’s economic resources through the expropriation of privatised industries and services by factions of the regime, the colossal rise in the price of medical services and drugs – all this points to an escalation of the economic and social crisis.

By November 9, long queues were forming at petrol stations, as motorists expecting a 400% price rise were trying to fill up their tanks. But low-paid workers are the main victims of the current situation. According to an employee of Ghaem Shahr Textile Industries, many of his colleagues have been forced to remove their children from education (both high school and university) so that they can feed their families on the meagre income from their temporary jobs.

Many small and medium-sized firms have already been bankrupted. However, what we are witnessing now is the effects of the crisis on some of the country’s major industrial units, exposing the extent of the problems facing the whole economy. In the past the Islamic regime could rely on oil income and unbridled imports to deal with the demand for basic consumption goods. But now the ruling elite is faced with two important problems: a fall in the price of oil and a regime of suffocating sanctions.

The new round of sanctions has not only made it difficult to import many items, leading to spiralling price rises for most goods: it has also become a serious political weapon threatening the survival of the regime. The regime cannot ignore the problems of production in major industries and this has given the workers in such plants an opportunity to raise demands regarding wages and working conditions.

All this has occurred at a time when the government has been pushing through the abolition of price subsidies – or promoting ‘targeted subsidies’, as it prefers to say. Despite threats to punish shopkeepers who increase prices charged for essential goods, such as bread, meat, sugar, cooking oil and dairy produce, prices for these items are rising daily. Compared to last year, the cost of bread is likely to have increased five or six times by the end of this Iranian month, while cooking oil will have more than doubled and cuts of lamb tripled.

This week, after months of denial, Iran’s Central Bank admitted the true extent of the rise in the rate of inflation. Statistics issued by the bank and other government organisations, including for the cost of living, are given in dollars, even though Iranian workers are paid in tomans (1,000 tomans = one dollar). Last week the price of imported meat in Tehran supermarkets was $30 a kilo – more than in most stores in London or New York. The average wage is $400 a month.

We should not forget that the removal of subsidies on essential food items was part of a $100 billion cuts programme; an integral component of the regime’s adherence to neoliberal economic policies under the terms of its five-year plan. However, uncertainty over the changes was one of the factors behind a $6 billion slide in the value of Tehran’s stock exchange two weeks ago, with trade volume plummeting 63% and share prices dropping by 43% in just one week.

All this will inevitably lead to increased unemployment. Official figures put Iran’s jobless rate at 14.6%. However, this is far below the true figure. The government of president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has revised the definition of what constitutes unemployment a number of times. Currently someone doing just one hour of paid work per week is not considered unemployed. But no-one doubts that for many the prospect of finding a job is non-existent.

The government’s fear of food riots following the abolition of subsidies is so real that even before the deadline for full implementation it stationed special military units in poor districts to ‘maintain security’ – in other words, prepare for potential confrontation with the masses. The police presence in Tehran and other cities was also increased and many were deployed on major streets and outside supermarkets. Meanwhile, the Revolutionary Guards’ Tehran commander announced that a special task force has been formed to deal with any economic protests. On November 8, several underground rap musicians were arrested in Tehran, and last week hundreds of young men and women were detained in what the police termed a “security cleansing”. The press has been warned to steer clear of any controversial coverage of the subsidy cuts.

In working class districts, everyone is clearly worried about Ahmadinejad’s plans for ‘reforming’ the economy. Of course, a combination of workers’ protests and riots in shanty towns would be a nightmare for the Islamic regime, but the key element is the strength and organisation of the working class. Given the weakness of the left, we cannot expect the working class to be in a position to take full advantage of the current situation. However, there is no doubt that in these exceptional times the success of the shanty towns struggles, the defeat of the abolition of subsidies and the struggles of pensioners all depend on the proletariat.

As in 1979, Iranian workers are in a position to make their mark in the fight against poverty and exploitation and for democracy. In pursuing these goals they need international solidarity and it is part of the role of Hands Off the People of Iran to mobilise such support.

Students fight closures with sit-in and protests

On Sunday 31st October the government announced the dissolution of Iran’s University of Medical Sciences. After the massive shock, student have organised protests with growing militancy and numbers. They have taken part in a sit in protest in opposition to the closures. Whilst some students will be able to attend Tehran’s Medical Science faculty, many will not have spaces. The attack on medical students is similar to those taking place against humanities students in a clear and organised attempt to undermine the politicisation of students in Tehran.

Below are a couple of videos from the last three days:

Working class activists and the situation in Iran

Below is a speech given by an Iranian worker activist Behrooz Khabaz on 22/10/2010 in Sweden at meeting in solidarity with Iranian workers and organising support for imprisoned activist Mahmood Salehi.

Greetings friends and comrades

In this speech first of all I am going to discuss to the general situation of workers in Iran and then I will talk about the role of worker activists inside and outside of Iran and their connection with the workers movement in Iran.

As you know, since long ago, the capitalist regime of Iran, has started a broad invasion to the working conditions and subsistence level of workers in Iran, it was started by the fifth Period of the Parliament and continued and became more prominent during Khatami’s presidential time, and it is going on more severely now.

In this limited time, I will try to show the actual image of the workers life and work situation, based on what I have personally faced and witnessed, the workers Campaign particularly became more active after labor contracts mainly turned to be temporary contracts which gradually even transformed to white signed contracts (which allows the employer to decide for every thing in the contract and the worker is only signing a white paper!) also when contractor companies started to take over. These companies were mainly started in the period of President Hashemi Rafsanjani, with the goal of creating cheap labor, and making the government free from their obligations toward the workers, and until now we can see that these companies are growing.

Capitalist regime of Iran, relying on millions of jobless people, relying on low level of subsistence, relying on job insecurity and also relying on its militia force keeps suppressing the working class more and more. Employed workers, have a nightmare that constantly threatens them: to be fired or unemployed! So they keep on working with a monthly wage that could not even cover the expenses of ten days of their life, and the smallest protest will be responded by a brutal repression of the capitalist regime, so they work with any condition until they are dismissed from work, or the factory is shut down, could you believe that their basic request is that this little salary is not postponed for months? When they go on a strike it is usually to demand the wage that they have not been paied for months or even years!

and we know through all the sources the first reason of the workers protests in Iran is first of all for these unpaid salaries and then to dismissal and closure of the factory!

In my opinion, the basic demands of workers in Iran are: the increase of wage, job security and freedom of association and workers organization, but the Iranian capitalism using all means of oppression has succeeded to suppress the workers, to make them be conservatives not to loose their jobs…. Not to take part in their co workers protests and strikes, to work extra all the time to earn a bit more and try to find the second and even the third job!

Iran’s current regime, with this overwhelming pressure, deprives workers from reaching their most basic demands, prevents workers to organize and to be united with the other progressive social movements. It has even forced workers to make little workplaces inside their homes to be able to make a living!!!! In their houses all the family has to work to make stuff etc and sell it for a very little money just to be able to survive, the workers children usually cant keep on studying and have to drop out of school and work in the under workshops…..

Due to this sad picture of the lives of Iran’s working class, the role of workers activists in Iran in fueling the movement and taking it forward should be really appreciated. They have done so much in the past years to defend the working class such as: organizing the demonstrations of the May days, leading and supporting workers strikes and protests etc, although many workers activists have been arrested and threatened and mistreated by the state we have had successes such as: the organization of Tehran’s bus drivers, the organization of Haft Tape (sugar companies) etc.

Due to the actively of the pioneer worker activists, the voice of the Iranian working class is heard all over the world. We hope that the worker activists in Iran become more aware of the complications of class struggle in Iran and keep on with the struggle with the aim of: uniting the workers struggles making organizations of different types and being active in them and training new members and activists who could take over in case the leaders are imprisoned.

In the end I should mention the important roll of the worker activists who live in exile, the ones who are concerned about the workers movement inside Iran all the time, and they do not want to lead, but support this movement, and they prefer the benefits of the working class over any other benefit, these activists could do a great roll in supporting the movement and to encourage the workers organizations and movements in solidarity with the Iranian working class.

Thank you all

Behrooz Khabaz