Iranian government security agents brutalized and arrested approximately 60 trade unionists after raiding the annual meeting of the Coordinating Committee to help Form Workers’ Organizations on June 15 in Karaj, Iran. Nine trade unionists remain imprisoned at the Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj.
In response, members of the International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran (IASWI) in Ottawa organized a demonstration outside the Iranian embassy calling for the immediate release of these political prisoners, for the right to organize independent trade unions and labour associations , the right to free speech, and freedom of assembly and expression in Iran.
CUPE 4772 President and IASWI organizer Farid Partovi helped organize the event and acted as master of ceremonies. CUPE National President Paul Moist spoke at the event.
“We, today, call on the Canadian government to demand the release of these workers, and restore trade union rights for the workers of Iran,” said Moist.
“We will never be free trade unionists if any workers around the world have their rights stomped on. And today we stand foursquare with the workers in Iran.”
According to Human Rights Watch, the Iranian government is carrying out a campaign to severely weaken civil society by targeting journalists, lawyers, activists, and students. The number of executions has risen sharply since 2010, and authorities tightly restrict access to information. In March 2011, the UN Human Rights Council appointed a Special Rapporteur on Iran in response to the worsening rights situation in Iran, but authorities have so far refused to allow him access to the country.
Workers are unable to exert their right to organize trade unions and associations that are independent of the government and employers without facing violent repression. Iranian authorities have arrested dozens, perhaps hundreds, of trade unionists in recent years and many have experienced harassment, torture and long prison terms.
Working conditions in Iran are tough. Unemployment is as high as 24 per cent. Millions of people live below the poverty line. The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) reports that over 70 per cent of Iranian workers are employed on temporary contracts with no job security. Under these economic and social conditions the need for genuine trade union representation is critical.