Free Reza Shahabi now!

ShahabiReza Shahabi – an Iranian labour activist member of the executive committee of the VAHED Bus Union – has been on hunger strike for almost 40 days in prison in Iran. According to the latest reports from Tehran, his protest is now having grave physical effects on him and he has become paralysed down the left side of his body.

Shahabi has spent the last four years in prison, accused by the Islamic state in Iran of “gathering information and colluding against state security, spreading propaganda against the system and ‘Moharebeh’” (translated as “enmity against god”). Over the last few years, his state of health has deteriorated markedly. Vindictively however, the authorities have not allowed him access to appropriate medical treatment.

Shahabi is an anti-war, anti-imperialist worker activist. In his defence, Hands Off the People of Iran is joining forces with the veteran labour activist, Ali Pichgah (a former leader of Iran’s oil workers’ strike) to call for his immediate, unconditional release.

As a matter of urgency, Reza Shahabi now needs hospital treatment. His life is being endangered by the Iranian authorities’ refusal to allow him proper medical care. We hold the government of Iranian president Hassan Rouhani directly responsible for Reza Shahabi’s life. This brave working class leader has taken a stand against capitalist exploitation and oppression in Iran – as well as any attack on the country by the west or Israel – and it is incumbent on all anti-imperialist/anti-war activists to support Shahabi in these extremely difficult days, when he is putting his life on the line for his beliefs.

What you can do:

  • Support the demand of Hopi and Ali Pichgah for the immediate release of Reza Shahabi! Publicise this protest widely!
  • Email your name/your organisation to Hopi at and we will add your details to the protests we are coordinating (please indicate whether personal capacity or not)
  • Invite a speaker from Hopi to a meeting of your organisation to explain our anti-war/anti-imperialist work and the situation of the working people in Iran
  • Write to the European embassy for Iran (notify us if you do):
    Ambassade de la Republique Islamique d’Iran
    4 avenue d’iena
    75116 Paris, France
  • Or email the newly opened UK embassy (copy us in):

Though watched and muzzled, independent labour unions are stirring

From The Economist

DURING a Persian new year’s party (in late March) at Iran’s flagship South Pars project in the Persian Gulf, where the world’s largest known gasfield is being tapped, a labourer called on Iran’s workers to unite. Behnam Khodadadi demanded better pay and conditions, and a proper trade union. Around 1,500 workers stopped security guards from detaining Mr Khodadadi. A week later he was fired from his job at Iran Industrial Networks Development, a contractor for the state-owned National Iranian Oil Company. Mr Khodadadi may have been muzzled, but disaffection is growing among Iranian workers as inflation outpaces wage rises and workers are laid off. At the same time attempts to organise labour are being suppressed in the run-up to June’s presidential elections.

“They haven’t paid us for at least four months and I have to keep borrowing money,” says Jamshid, a 32-year-old industrial worker in Tehran, the capital. Last month the minimum wage was raised by 25%, to 4.87m rials ($140) a month, but even by official criteria this is one-third of what is deemed to be a living wage in the capital. The drop in the rial’s value means that, when it comes to the imports on which Iran relies, Iranian cash is worth barely a third of what it was in 2011, before the United States imposed sanctions on the country’s financial system.

Iran does not recognise independent unions, so workers have to make do with Islamic Labour Councils, which must be approved by employers and the security services. Reckoning that these councils are in cahoots with the government, workers tend to keep their grievances to themselves for fear of being sacked as troublemakers. Labour leaders are often imprisoned.

Ali Nejati and Reza Shahabi, who led sugarcane workers’ and bus drivers’ unions respectively, were recently freed under surveillance. Mr Shahabi is now in prison again, as is Muhammad Jarahi, who stands for petrochemical workers, and Shahrokh Zamani, a painter, all of them guilty of “endangering national security”. “Not having independent workers’ unions guarantees things will stay the same,” Mr Nejati recently told an Iranian radio station based in Germany. “As a workers’ representative I complained and I went to prison for it and was fired.”

Despite the long history of Iran’s labour movement and the big part its oil workers played in deposing the shah in 1979, Iran’s workers have witnessed a steady erosion of their bargaining power. After the revolution, independent workers’ councils won rights to such things as a 40-hour week and lodging allowances. They got rid of people who had worked for the shah’s intelligence service. But during the Iran-Iraq war (1980-88) the unions’ independence was destroyed. Under President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and his successor, Muhammad Khatami, imports soared while Iran’s own manufacturing industry slumped. Unions have been further weakened by the reclassification of many workers as temporary.

Last month several bakers were arrested for allegedly organising their colleagues in the Kurdish city of Sanandaj. At the same time, workers at a tractor-making company in Tabriz, in the north-west, signed a letter accusing managers of “brutal treatment, intimidation and failing to pay wages”. “Authorities who always talk about justice in the Islamic republic should know that complete injustice prevails in this system,” they wrote.

“We are at the mercy of our employers,” says Mahmud, a Tehran street sweeper on his night shift, scraping rubbish out of an open gutter with a coarse wicker brush. “We almost never get the overtime pay we are entitled to but we can’t complain because we would be fired.” A senior municipal worker admits that thousands of non-unionised street sweepers, who clean the capital by night, often go months without pay. Last year the office of Muhammad Qalibaf, Tehran’s mayor and a presidential hopeful, commissioned a film called “Those Who Wear Orange” about a brainy university graduate who becomes a street cleaner—for love of the job.

A Fistful of Tomans

There's money to be made in a place like this
There’s money to be made in a place like this

Kevan Harris in the London Review of Books:

A Tehran restaurant owner recently told me the advice he’d been giving his friends for the last year: ‘Sell your car. Buy dollars.’ Sound counsel, I thought. Exchanging Iranian rials for dollars at the end of 2011 and converting them back nine months later would have yielded enough profit to buy two new cars. Waiting another month would have got you a cheap motorbike too. This sort of ‘street maths’ filters into every conversation. In September a waiter told me he had just sold his stash of $10,000 for a hefty profit. A young woman took her pay cheque to the bank every month and bought dollars with it. In this unofficial currency market the value of the rial dropped nearly 70 per cent in ten months. The frenzied speculation began early last year, after the EU announced it was going to restrict imports of Iranian oil. Government attempts to stem the flight only pushed the rial’s value down further. ‘The Central Bank governor promises on Tuesday to take action, and the dollar goes up on Wednesday,’ a businessman joked. ‘So he reverses his position on Saturday, and the dollar goes up on Sunday.’

Blogger Sattar Beheshti dies in custody

Sattar Beheshti, who ran a blog critical of the Iranian regime, was arrested on October 30 for comments made on Facebook, and handed over to the ‘cyber police’. After a night in Evin prison, where he complained about threats and beatings, he was moved to an unknown location. By November 3rd he was dead, with evidence of torture all over his body.

Beheshti was apparently not well known as an activist, showing how far-reaching the regime’s clampdown on dissent has become.


Mass arrest of trade unionists in Karaj

Yesterday, Friday 15th of June at 12 noon 60 members of the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ organizations and a number of labor activists were arrested in the city of Karaj.

According to the latest news, Mitra Homayooni, Vafa Ghaderi, Reyhaneh Ansari, Khaled Hosseini, Mahmoud Salehi, Saeed Moghaddam, Cyrus Fathi, Ghaleb Hoss are amongst those arrested.

Arash Sadeghi and Hossein Ronaghi on Hunger Strike – Solidarity needed

Free all political prisoners!

Below is an article which appeared on the Iranian website Eshterak reporting on the barbaric treatment of two political prisoners.

On Thursday May 24th, Arash Sadeghi, Iranian student and political prisoner finally was allowed to receive a visit from his grandfather after 130 days of detention. This visit took place in section 209 of Evin prison in Tehran and lasted less than 5 minutes in presence of the interrogator.

According to Arash’s grandfather, they had shaved all his head. He seemed so slim and weak, that he first couldn’t recognize Arash. During his short visit Arash told his grandfather that all this time he had been kept in solitary confinement and in order to slow the process of his case have limited his interrogations take place only every 20 days. During the visit Arash announced that he had launched a hunger strike on May 24th to support Hossein Ronaghi until his rightful demands are not met.

Hossein Ronaghi is an Iranian political prisoner and blogger who suffers from severe kidney disease and according to doctors needs immediate surgical attention. Despite this, the Iranian authorities have refused to allow him to receive medical treatment. To protest against such inhumane situation Hossein Ronaghi has gone on hunger strike. Doctors say a hunger strike would seriously endanger his life and could be fatal to Hossein.

Hossein Ronaghi-Maleki (Babak Khorramdin) Iranian blogger, human rights activists and one the members of Iran Proxy, was arrested on December 13, 2009, but under pressure exerted by intelligence agents, his family and his friends had been forced to keep the news of his arrest secret.

Throughout his detention, Ronaghi-Maleki has been subjected to excruciating physical and psychological torture techniques by his interrogators who want him to participate in televised confessions. He has gone on hunger strike to protest the harsh conditions of his detention and unlawful actions of the intelligence and judicial authorities. On May 24 he was placed in solitary confinement in Tehran’s Evin Priosn, 3 days after he started a hunger strike.

Please sign the petition here:

Clandestine gay rights rally in Tehran

‘It’s not easy to be gay in the Islamic Republic of Iran. A recent United Nations report decried “harassment, persecution, cruel punishment and even the death penalty.” Because Islamic law requires four adult male witnesses to prosecute sodomy, Iranian police typically seek confessions, often through torture. Women, easier to convict, are given 100 lashes for each case. Outside of the legal system, LGBT Iranians face widespread and socially accepted discrimination, bullying, and an elevated risk of suicide, according to a UK-based study. “Loneliness is killing me,” a 27-year-old man from Qazvin told researchers.’

More photos and comment from the Atlantic magazine: