Category Archives: Solidarity

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 office@hopoi.info 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): iranemb.lon@mfa.gov.ir

Solidarity with political prisoners

prisonerThe thawing of the relations between the Iran and the west has resulted in an intensification on the repression bearing down on activists domestically and a flurry of executions of prisoners, some of them long term. Urgent solidarity is required in particular with the following activists

  • Behnam Ebrahimzadeh, a member of the Committee for the Establishment of Workers’ Organisations in Iran (CEWO), who has served three years of a six-year sentence.
  • Reza Shahabi, member of the coordinating committee of Vahed bus workers, still in jail for his part in the 2006 strike and for organising workers in this sector. We note that Shahabi is very ill and his condition is deteriorating daily.
  • Shahrokh Zamani, a Painters Union militant and another CEWO member. He is currently serving an 11-year sentence and has been tortured on a number of occasions. Zamani is held in Rajaei Shahr prison, one of the worst detention centres in Iran, because he is accused of “insulting the leader”, a charge that was added six months into his sentence.
  • CEWO member Mohammad Jarahi, who was arrested in January 2012. He, like fellow-prisoners, has had a number of serious health issues, but has been refused release on health grounds.
  • Worker activists Pedram Nasrollahi, Mohammad Mohammadi and Abdolreza Ghanbari are also in prison and their lives are in danger.
  • In Kurdistan province, in addition to nationalist prisoners, worker activists Vafa Ghaderi, Khaled Hosseini and Ghader Hosseini all face jail sentences and on November 4, hours after the execution of the Kurdish prisoners, Vafa Ghaderi was arrested.

eBay auction for HOPI

Between imperialism and a hard place

Between imperialism and a hard place

A number of members and supporters of the campaign have donated clothes and other items to be sold in aid of HOPI. Amongst the donors are an acclaimed Iranian designer who has given many brand new designer clothes. Plus we have some retro-style punk and rock n’ roll shirts, a few leather biker jackets and some rare punk singles – for all you aging spiky tops out there.

Check out the selection here: myworld.ebay.co.uk/2013hopi

The auction will end on Sunday July 14 between 7pm and 8pm – so please make sure you get bidding before then! All the money raised will be thrown into the work of Hopi as it faces up to the new challenges of solidarity and anti-war campaigning.

If none of our stuff takes your fancy, you can always support the work of Hopi in the good old-fashioned way by making a donation. Just follow the link to Paypal on our website.

Many thanks for your support!

In solidarity,

Hands Off the People of Iran

Robin Hood and solidarity

Ben Lewis reports on comrades running the Nottingham half-marathon in support of Workers Fund Iran

On Sunday September 30, six bright-eyed and bushy-tailed runners from Workers Fund Iran lined up with around 6,600 other competitors to take part in the Ikano Robin Hood half-marathon in Nottingham. The event was billed as a “fast and scenic route through the city” and “an ideal course for beginners and faster runners looking for a personal best”.

For the WFI team, the event was a key part of our training for the Florence marathon on November 25 (more on this below), as well as a way of publicising the charity and recruiting new runners. While some of us were wondering whether going for a team curry the night before was the optimal form of pre-race nutrition, all of our runners – old and new – did WFI proud.

Having previously crossed the finish line together at the Vienna marathon, Jamie Tedford and I ran separately this time around. In the end I beat him by a mere six seconds, with a time of 1 hour, 27 minutes and 46 seconds. (I can only explain this six-second victory by the fact that a bloke dressed as Robin Hood was closing down on me in the back straight, so I somehow managed a bit of a sprint to ensure that he did not pass!) Jamie and I finished, probably in a much worse state than in Vienna, 205th and 200th respectively.

Particular credit must go to two of our new runners, Natalya and Melissa. Having heard about the fund from their two brothers, who have both taken part in WFI solidarity cricket matches, they decided to join us in Nottingham. Sporting the swish WFI T-shirts, they finished 33rd and 42nd in the women’s race, clocking up seriously impressive times of 1:34.14 and 1:36.03.

Our two Iranian comrades, Nasrollah and Ali, did not exactly trouble the leaders, but their efforts to even get to the race perhaps embody the dedication involved in solidarity running. Ali, without doubt WFI’s best runner, has almost 60 marathons under his belt. Although 13 miles is little more than a stroll in the park for him, he came all the way from Italy to run and say hello to his WFI comrades in Britain.

Up until recently, Nasrollah has mainly concentrated on the organisational side of things for WFI. But of late he has subjected himself to a strict dietary regime in order to prepare for Florence. Chocolate and beer were the first casualties, he assures me. He has not run in a long time, so decided to mainly walk around Nottingham, battling through in a time of 3:40.26. He was joined over the line by his faithful comrade, Ali, who probably accumulated something close to 35 kilometres along the way. (He would run little stretches ahead of his co-runner, come back to join him and then set off again!)

Despite all the runners noting how hard the race was, we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and the seeds have been very much sown for Italy in November. The WFI team is starting to diversify – while most of our runners are Iranian exiles, there are several non-Iranians in Europe who have been recruited.

Quite frankly, the more people that can be attracted to WFI and its message, the better: the situation in Iran is now spiralling out of control. Iran’s currency, the rial, has fallen in value by 60% in just over a week, which will bring nothing but desperation and hardship for the Iranian people. If they get paid at all, wages can drop in value within the space of just a day. Basic foodstuffs and life necessities can shoot up in price in a very small time.

Regardless of what some of the more unhinged elements of the far left may think, these conditions are not exactly propitious to some kind of democratic and progressive change in Iran. When people are struggling to even put food on the table, then this does not bode well for the cause of human liberation.

This is where Workers Fund Iran steps in, raising much-needed funds to ensure that those suffering the most under the burden of International Monetary Fund ‘reforms’, sanctions and a brutal theocratic regime are not simply left to rot.

Obviously, for all the hard work and dedication of our small number of activists and runners, the funds that we raise through our sporting events, social meals and film/music nights are very limited. For the time being at least, we cannot compete with the slick machinery of charities like Macmillan or Unicef, let alone the funds of the Central Intelligence Agency and its heinous operations. But such basic solidarity work is also an act of great symbolic importance: there is an alternative, however embryonic, to both the imperialist war drive against Iran and the mullahs’ regime: working class solidarity.

And this is the message we will be taking to the streets of Florence, where we are expecting around 30 runners to fly the flag. With so many, and with your support, we can easily raise thousands of euros for Workers Fund Iran. But don’t wait to be asked to donate. Go to workersfund.org and transfer some cash. If you would like to take part, or just fancy a trip to Italy to cheer on our runners, then please get in touch via workersfundiran@gmail.com.

Sport solidarity, not Sport relief

Sarah McDonald and other comrades will be running the Vienna marathon to raise money for Iranian Workers, here she explains why you should show support

The threat of war in the Middle East is increasing daily. The drums are beating especially loudly in Israel, and the Iranian people are facing a fight on two fronts: against imperialist intervention and against the Iranian regime. Now, more than ever, we must show active solidarity.

Workers Fund Iran was set up in December 2005. It aims to reduce and relieve poverty amongst Iranian workers (both employed and unemployed), who are victims both of the economic policies of the Iranian regime and the sanctions imposed by imperialism. It aims to put at the centre of its activities the need to rebuild international working class solidarity, directly with the workers of Iran. WFI is involved in many fundraising activities to support its work, ranging from solidarity meals to solidarity cricket (!). Yet another WFI tradition is perhaps the ultimate test: marathon running. The last such event with WFI participation was in Berlin, where well over €500 was raised last September. This year, 40 WFI runners will be pounding the streets of Vienna in the name of international solidarity.

Last August, as I was whiling away another pleasant summer’s day in the CPGB office, I was asked if I’d be up for running a marathon at some point over the next year. “Why not?” I replied. Words I have come to regret uttering on many an occasion over the past eight months or so (normally somewhere around the 18km mark during a training stint). Having been a semi-competent middle-distance runner for the last six or seven years, I wasn’t quite starting from scratch – but going from the concept of running 26.2 miles to the reality of it is … well, painful.

So a small squad of us registered for the Vienna marathon (the point, for me at least, where the idea become a reality). Since then, we’ve battled the weather, training through the winter’s high winds, cold and rain. We’ve sustained injury (all of us have done ourselves damage at some point through running stupid distances). Now, with less than three weeks to go we’re hoping to make it intact to the finishing line (my personal goal is not to get overtaken by a 70-year-old dressed as a chicken), with a pint of Austria’s finest beer glowing in the sky like a Monty Python-style Holy Grail animation. Though we are looking forward to April 15 (albeit with trepidation!), I think it’s a safe assertion that we’re looking forward even more to April 16 when this is all over (as, I’m sure, are our friends, colleagues, family, etc, who we’ve bored to death with our running tales).

There are important lessons to be learned from this experience (not least, don’t mix isotonic sports drinks with energy gels). By taking part in events that involve active solidarity you get a sense of being a part of something, whether that’s through training, competing with each other (in a comradely fashion, of course), organising meals for the runners, putting on meetings and events around the marathon or planning walking tours exploring the history of Red Vienna. It’s fair to say those who are running and those who are flying across to support us are very much immersed in the event. In essence, our comrades have put in blood, sweat and tears (some of us quite literally).

We are now asking for your support. With two and a half weeks to go, we need all the sponsorship we can get. So, comrades, dig deep! Think of those hours of pounding the pavements and parks; though sleet, snow and iliotibial band syndrome.

The most important lesson, of course, is that it is both possible and urgently necessary for the working class to organise solidarity, not charity. The popularity and universality of sport can greatly assist this process. For example, the BBC’s Sport relief recently saw people in this country raise over £50 million. What a shame that these funds will be frittered away, filtered through the corrupt, bureaucratic and undemocratic apparatuses of bourgeois charity. Surely, our goal as the workers’ movement must be to raise this kind of money and beyond – strengthening the cause of working class self-organisation and combativity across the globe. The funds we raise right now will, of course, be much smaller. But they are symbolically important, and point towards what our movement could achieve.

We would also urge comrades to show their support for the Iranian people by attending the Hands Off the People of Iran school in central London over the weekend of the April 21-22. There will also be a full update of how our marathon runners got on in Vienna and you can, of course, buy us a well deserved pint in the pub afterwards.

You can sponsor us by going to http://hopoi.org/?page_id=11 (please clearly state the purpose of the donation: ie, Workers Fund Iran marathon) or by clicking here: http://www.charitychoice.co.uk/workers-fund-iran-11724

We would very much appreciate your support!

Protest against extradition to Iran of two labour activists!

Bina Darabzand, a leading member of the Consistency Committee to Establish Workers’ Organizations in Iran, and his son Oktai, a journalist and blogger, have recently fled Iran due to threats by the Islamic Republic regime against their lives and security. They have sought refugee status in Turkey; however, they remain under pressure from the Turkish authorities to return to Iran. Given the serious and continuing risk to their lives, we urge UNHCR to expedite the processing of their cases, grant them refugee status as a matter of urgency, and quickly facilitate their resettlement to a safe third country.

Bina Darabzand
Bina Darabzand is a prominent activist who has been politically active from the age of 15, first against the Shah’s dictatorship, and then against the Islamic Republic regime. In addition to being a leading member of the Consistency Committee to Establish Workers’ Organizations in Iran, he has also re-started his political blog, http://salam-democrat.com.

Numerous labor activists with the Consistency Committee to Establish Workers’ Organizations in Iran have faced persecution and imprisonment for exercising their fundamental rights to organize, and for demanding workers’ rights, including unpaid back wages, fair pay, and benefits. Behnam Ebrahimzadeh, a member of the same Committee, is a political prisoner serving a 20-year sentence for his membership in this organization. Nearly all members of the Committee to Establish Workers’ Organizations have been arrested, beaten, or persecuted by regime authorities in Iran including Shahrokh Zamani and Muhammad Jarahi, who are now serving 11- and 10-year prison sentences, respectively, in Tabriz Prison. Others have been released temporarily and only on the basis of having paid multiple hundreds of millions Tomans in bail.

Oktai Darabzand
Bina’s son, Oktai Darabzand, is a journalist with a focus on political and human rights issues. Six years ago, Oktai established a weblog called “Aseman Daily News,” which published the news of political prisoners from jail as well as other human rights violations by the Islamic Republic regime. The blog also included social, economic, and foreign news sections. Journalists and bloggers covering human rights news in Iran are routinely persecuted, tortured, sentenced to lengthy prison terms, and even sentenced to execution in Iran; Reporters Without Borders provides an overview of the risk faced by such journalists and bloggers in Iran (link).

During the 2009 uprising, Oktai’s weblog was blocked on the orders of the Judicial Power. Immediately, with funding from his father, Oktai opened a website with the same name (http://asemandailynews.com),  continuing with his activities.

However, in April of 2011, Oktai’s website was designated by the regime as “a PMOI site.” Many members of PMOI (Peoples’ Mojahedin of Irani, or Mojahedin-e Khalgh) – and those accused of affiliation – are condemned to brutally harsh prison sentences and execution. Jafar Kazemi, Ali Saremi, and Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaei are only 3 recent and well-known examples of those accused of PMOI membership who have been executed on that basis.

Although Oktai has no political affiliation or contact with any organized group; however, because of his journalistic activities, and because the Islamic Republic has designated his site as being affiliated with PMOI, his life is at clear and unquestionable risk in Iran.

Situation in Turkey
Bina and Oktai entered Turkey and registered with the UNHCR. However, they were soon informed by the Ankara Police (Foreign Citizens Bureau) that the Turkish Ministry refused to recognize their status as asylum-seekers; they were given until 8 February 2012 to leave Turkey and return to Iran. Thanks to pressure from Iranian and European supporters, UNHCR accelerated the interview process and contacted the Turkish Interior Ministry and Police, requesting that they respect Bina and Oktai’s status as asylum-seekers whose case is pending review.

The Turkish police demonstrated their anger at the pressure that had been exerted on them to accept the Darabzand’s appeal. Ultimately, Bina and Oktai were required to leave Ankara and go to a small town that has no facilities, not even a bus terminal, 3 hours from any city. They are to wait for a response from UNHCR there, but they remain at elevated risk of deportation at any moment. Should they be illegally deported to Iran by the Turkish authorities, not only would they face certain imprisonment and torture, but both of their lives would be at risk.

TAKE ACTION NOW:
There is an urgent need for people to write to UNHCR in Turkey and request that UNHCR expedite the processing of the Darabzand’s cases, grant them refugee status as a matter of urgency, and quickly facilitate their resettlement to a safe third country. A sample letter follows; we ask everyone to use the sample letter, or write a letter of your own, and send it to UNHCR in Turkey, with copies to the Turkish Interior Ministry, asking UNHCR to take urgent action, given the threat to the Darabzands’ lives, and their current insecure situation in Turkey.

Sample Letter and Addresses:

Addresses:
To: turan@unhcr.org
cc: mustesarlik@icisleri.gov.tr; gsekreter@icisleri.gov.tr; diab@icisleri.gov.tr

To the UNHCR office in Turkey:

I am writing with regard to the urgent cases of Iranian asylum-seekers Bina Darabzand (UNHCR case #385-11C08824 ) and his son Okatai Darabzand (UNHCR case #385-11C08827).

Bina Darabzand is a well-known life-long anti-regime political activist and leading member of the Consistency Committee to Establish Workers’ Organizations in Iran – an organization whose members have all been subjected to beatings, persecution, and lengthy jail sentences. Members who are not currently political prisoners have been forced to flee Iran to save their own lives. Yet leading activists like Bina remain at risk even in Turkey.

Oktai Darabzand is a journalist covering human rights and other news in Iran. He is without political affiliation, yet his website has been designated by the Islamic Republic authorities as belonging to anti-regime organization PMOI. The Islamic Republic regime’s notorious brutal repression of journalists and its ongoing persecution of members of PMOI underscore the need for Oktai Darabzand to be granted to asylum and protection.

Both Bina and Oktai Darabzand have legitimate claims of asylum, and both remain in danger as long as they remain under their current insecure situation in Turkey.

I urge UNHCR to expedite the processing of the Darabzands’ cases, grant them refugee status as a matter of urgency, and quickly facilitate their resettlement to a safe third country.

Sincerely,
[Your Name]
[Country of Residence]

Protest against actress sentenced to 90 lashes and one year in jail

A campaigning has been launched for the freedom of Marzieh Vafamehr, an Iranian actress who has been sentenced to 90 lashes and one year in jail for her role in My Tehran for Sale, an Australian film about an actress whose theatre work is banned in Iran.

Actors’ Equity of Australia has set up an on-line petition calling for her release.

Vafamehr, wife of the acclaimed film-maker Nasser Taghvai, was arrested in July after starring in the film, which touches on many of the taboo issues of modern life in Iran. Iranian human rights activists have reacted with outrage to her conviction and in particular the fact that she faces 90 lashes. It comes only two days after a student activist, Peyman Aref, was lashed 74 times in Tehran’s Evin prison for insulting the president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The film, directed by Granaz Moussavi, features Vafamehr as an actress who flees to Australia as an illegal immigrant after being persecuted in Iran. She appears with a shaved head and without a hijab in some scenes. In the film, an underground party where men and women dance and drink is disrupted by a group of moral police who arrest some of the partygoers. My Tehran for Sale premiered at the Adelaide film festival in 2009 but remains banned in Iran.

Other members of Iran’s film industry have also been arrested in recent years. Pegah Ahangarani, a popular actor was released from jail in July. Director Jafar Panahi received a six-year prison term and 20-year ban from film-making last year. Mohammad Rasoulof was also sentenced to six years in jail. Ramin Parchami, an actor who voiced support for the opposition, still remains in jail.

Go to Equity’s web site at www.equity.org.uk for more information. You can find the petition at http://www.equityfoundation.org.au/newsbites/actors-equity-calls-for-the-release-of-marzieh-vafamehr.html

Sponsor Workers Fund Iran supporters running in the Berlin Marathon!

Supporters of Workers Fund Iran will be pounding the streets in the Berlin marathon on September 25th . They will be getting their running shoes on to raise sponsorship money for the important and unique work of this charity – can you support them?

Workers Fund Iran (WFI) was founded in December 2005 inspired by suggestions from veteran Iranian labour activist Albert Sohrabian (1927-2004). WFI aims to reduce and relieve poverty amongst Iranian workers (both employed and unemployed). This results from both the economic policies of the Iranian regime and the sanctions imposed by other countries. The charity puts at the centre of its activities the drive to rebuild international working class solidarity, directly with the workers of Iran. The charity is an independent organisation. Funds sent to Iran will be distributed amongst the most needy working class families who are facing destitution, regardless of political affiliation. We hope the funds will stop families sending their children to the streets as beggars or peddlers and selling their body parts, which is a common practice.

You can sponsor us on line using Charity Choice’s website
https://www.charitychoice.co.uk/donation.asp?ref=154051

So far runners from England, France, Italy, Germany, Sweden and USA will participate to raise funds for this cause. You can show your support by wearing Workers Fund Iran T-shirt and walking with us. If you would like to run the half marathon or the marathon with us and support our cause please send us an email workersfund@gmail.com.

طرفداران صندوق کارگری ایران در ماراتون    =============== را به لرزه در میاورندآنها کفش های دو به پا میکنند تا برای اهداف بزرگ این موسسۀ خیریه پول جمع آوری کنند – آیا شما میتوانید از آنها حمایت کنید؟
صندوق کارگری ایران، با الهام از پیشنهادات کارگرباسابقۀ ایرانی آلبرت سهرابیان (2004-1927) بنیان گذاشته شدصندوق کارگری ایران بر آنست که فقر را در میان کارگران ایران کاهش و نهایتا از بین ببرد شاغل و غیر شاغل )، فقری که نتیجۀ سیاستهای اقتصادی دولت ایران و محاصرۀ اقتصادی توسط دولتهای دیگر استاین موسسۀ خیریه، طبقۀ کارگر ایران را بمثابه مرکزفعالیت و نیروی محرکه برای بازسازی همبستگی طبقۀ کارگرجهان قرار داده استصندوق کارگری ایران موسسه ای است مستقلوجوه ارسالی به ایران بدون توجه به وابستگی سیاسی کارگران در میان خانوداه های کارگری که در معرض فقر قرار دارند توزیع میشودما امیدواریم که صندوق کارگری بتواند مانع از تکدی کودکان در خیابان ها،اعتیاد آنها به مواد مخدر و یا فروش اعضاء بدن این کودکان شود، چیزی که هم اکنون در جریان است.
شما میتوانید از طریق اینترنت و سایت زیر ما را حمایت کنید https://www.charitychoice.co.uk/donation.asp?ref=154051
تا بحال دوندگانی از انگلستان، آمریکا، فرانسه، آلمان، ایتالیا و سوئد برای جمع آوری پول آمادۀ همکاری شده اندشما میتوانید با پوشیدن زیرپوش صندوق کارگری و راهپیمائی با ما در هامبورگ حمایت خودتان را نشان دهیدچنانچه مایلید ماراتون یا نیمه ماراتون را با ما بدوید و حمایت خود را از اهداف صندوق کارگری نشان دهید لطفا با ایمیل زیر تماس بگیریدworkersfund@gmail.com
همبسته باد اتحاد کارگران ایران
در ماراتون هامبورگ 22 ماه مه 2011 با ما باشید
صندوق کارگری ایران