Author Topic: Iran: Labor Strikes, Women?s Protests Continue  (Read 202 times)

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Richard Mellor

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Iran: Labor Strikes, Women?s Protests Continue
« on: March 13, 2018, 06:23:24 AM »
Iran: Labor Strikes, Women?s Protests Continue

?The Free Union of Iranian Workers considers itself part of the  movement for liberation from gender discrimination and any type of  inequality in the social life of human beings.  Thus  we condemn the  attacks on justice-seeking and freedom-loving women and men in front of  the Ministry of Labor.  We demand the immediate and unconditional  release of all who have been arrested in front of this ministry,  and  the cancellation of  the judgments issued against the Daughters of  Revolution Avenue,  an end to their prosecution and an end to all the  forms of discrimination that have been forced upon the women of Iran  during the past four decades.?
 
 Frieda Afary
 
March 8, 2018
 
Ten weeks after a wave of nationwide popular demonstration called for  the overthrow of the Iranian regime and an end to its military  intervention in the region,  the  uprising is continuing in a different  form:  Multiple labor strikes, labor actions,  women?s protests against  the compulsory hijab and other discriminatory laws,  actions by families  of political prisoners,  Sufi Dervishes, and  environmental protests.   The state has also stiffened its crackdown on women activists, workers,  environmental activists and Sufis.   Several detainees,  including a  professor and environmental activist, Kavous Seyed Emami,   a Sufi  Dervish, Mohammad Raji,  and  young protesters such as Sina Ghanbari and  Vahid Heydari   have been killed in state custody, and their deaths  have been attributed to  ?committing suicide.?
 
In this article, I would like to focus on labor protests, women?s  protests, and ways in which international socialists and progressives  might be able to  express their solidarity with them.
 
I. Labor Protests/Strikes Everywhere

 Currently various labor protests and strikes in steel, sugarcane, oil  and petrochemicals, machinery  production as well as  telecommunications, railways,  construction, transportation,  education,  healthcare, municipal services,  and carrying of cargo (by porters) are  taking place on a daily basis.   

The protests also involve retirees,   the young unemployed,  and the disabled.
 
These labor actions are mostly demanding the payment of back wages  and benefits (anywhere from one month to two years)  and oppose the lack  of job security in an economy in which the majority of those employed  are contract-employees with few or no benefits.   The employers are  mostly either directly part of the state and its Islamic Revolutionary  Guard Corps and other parastatal foundations, or indirectly related to  the state in the form of  contractors.
 
The  protests have mostly taken place in the province of Khuzestan in  the south.  Khuzestan is one of Iran?s  industrial centers,  has a  majority Arab population and has been experiencing severe environmental  problems related to  the drying up of bodies of water and marshes caused  by government policies aimed at maximizing short-term profits and the  monopolization of resources for the capital and the provinces of Central  Iran.     Strikes and labor protests are also taking place in the  provinces of Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, Lorestan, Isfahan, Fars, Markazi and  Tehran as well as others.
 The most prominent strikes are currently the following:
 
  1. National Steel strike in Ahvaz, Khuzestan over the non-payment of  wages/benefits involves 4000 workers and is in its seventeenth day.   On  Thursday, March 1,  security police attacked the homes of ten workers,  arrested them for ?illegal? protest activities and later set a $10,000  bail for each.  The strikers have been marching around the city of Ahvaz   to demand their release and have been joined by their wives and other  family members at a protest in front of the state house.
  2. The Haft-Tapeh Sugarcane strike in Khuzestan over the non-payment of  wages/benefits and the precarious conditions of contract workers and  day laborers. This strike also demands the legalization of independent  unions.   It involves several thousand workers,  including retirees and  has faced multiple attacks by security forces as well as arrests of  workers.  The Haft Tapeh workers have been some of the most militant  during the past several years.
  3. The Hepco machine workers? strike in Arak, Central Province, over  the non-payment of wages/benefits, massive lay offs (reducing the number  of employees from 4000 to 1000) and a major cut in production.
Women?s  presence in the ongoing  labor strikes/actions has not been  limited to supporting male family members.   Women have been actively  involved in  the protests of  education, healthcare workers and  retirees.   A new and promising development  is  the expression of  support from some  male workers for the rights of women as women.   On  January 30, the Association  of Electrical and Metal Workers of  Kermanshah issued a statement in which  they defended the actions of  women who have been protesting the compulsory hijab:  ?There is no doubt  that the girls and boys who have become knowns as ?those from  Revolution Avenue,? also  include women and men workers,  and those from  the lower  layers of society.   Therefore,  the Iranian working class,   half of whom are women,  considers this current movement against the  compulsory hijab as related to itself and is obligated to support it  with determination.? (anjomanbfk.blogfa.com)
 
II. Women?s Protests Against the Compulsory Hijab and Other forms of Discrimination

 Since December 7 when an individual woman,  Vida Movahed stood on top  of a utility box in Tehran?s Revolution Avenue,  took off her headscarf  and waved it on a stick as a sign of protest against the compulsory  hijab,  at least 30 women have been arrested  for similar acts in Tehran  and other cities throughout Iran.   Some were temporarily  released  after posting heavy bails.  However, as these individual acts of protest  continued to multiply,  the authorities became more and more violent.
 Maryam Shariatmadari,  who was pushed off a utility box on February  22,  suffered a broken leg which requires operation.  She is currently  being held in Gharchak prison (near Tehran)  where she has to climb up  to the second level of a bunk bed in order to sleep at night.  Hamraz  Sadeghi  who  stood on top of a utility box in Tehran on February 24,   was pushed off and  viciously beaten by a plainclothes officer,   arrested and taken to the Gharchak prison.   The  ?Daughters of  Revolution Avenue? as they have come to be known,  are now being charged  with ?inciting corruption and promoting prostitution? and face ten-year  prison sentences.
 
On March 8, International Women?s Day,  following a call by some  women?s rights activists,  at least a hundred women and men attempted to  come together to protest in front of the Ministry of Labor in Tehran.   Before they could even gather,  they were attacked and beaten.  At least  84 people (59 women and 25 men)  were arrested by the police.  Those  who were arrested  were taken to jail by vans which were already there  to transport them.
 
The call for this International Women?s Day action, had  demanded an  end to gender discrimination in the work place, family and society as a  whole,  including an end to the compulsory hijab.   Following the  attempted protest,  the organizers  still issued a  statement demanding  an end to workplace discrimination and sexual segregation as well as  equal rights at work,  in marriage,  and the right to choose one?s own  clothing.
 
A welcome development was also a statement of solidarity from the   Free Union of Iranian Workers,  the most outspoken labor union in  Iran,  the most critical of capitalism,  and jointly led by a man and a  woman,   Jafar Azimzadeh and Parvin Mohammadi.    In a statement in  honor of  International Women?s Day,  the union stated:
 
?Women are not semi-humans.  They are human beings,  and for that  reason,  the women?s movement is one of the most determinant social  movements involved in the historical changes that  our country  encounters.  It is a movement of millions and has a deep connection with  human liberation.  That is why the women?s movement has had a  continuous and unbreakable connection with the labor movement, its  horizons and ideals in every era in modern history.?
 
?The Free Union of Iranian Workers considers itself part of the  movement for liberation from gender discrimination and any type of  inequality in the social life of human beings.  Thus  we condemn the  attacks on justice-seeking and freedom-loving women and men in front of  the Ministry of Labor.  We demand the immediate and unconditional  release of all who have been arrested in front of this ministry,  and  the cancellation of  the judgments issued against the daughters of  Revolution Avenue,  an end to their prosecution and an end to all the  forms of discrimination that have been forced upon the women of Iran  during the past four decades.?

 http://ettehad-e.com/2018/03/08/%D8%A8%DB%8C%D8%A7%D9%86%DB%8C%D9%87-%D8%A7%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%A7%D8%AF%DB%8C%D9%87-%D8%A2%D8%B2%D8%A7%D8%AF-%DA%A9%D8%A7%D8%B1%DA%AF%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A7%DB%8C%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%A8%D9%87-%D9%85/
 
III.  How to Express Solidarity with Iranian Labor and Women?s Struggles?

 For those socialists and progressives who wish to express their  solidarity with these struggles, while also opposing any imperialist  intervention in Iran, here are some ways in which you can make a  difference:
 
  1. If you know someone who speaks Persian, ask them to help you follow  the website of the  Free Union of Iranian Workers  which has  been the best at reporting current labor struggles there.   Go to http://ettehad-e.com/
You can also go to the weblog of the Association of Electrical and Metal Workers of Kermanshahanjomanbfk.blogfa.com
 or the website of the Tehran Vahed Bus Workers Syndicate
 http://vahedsyndica.com/
 
 You can also contact the International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran which is an organization of socialist and labor activists based in Canada:
 https://workers-iran.org/
 
  1. You can join the campaign in solidarity with Middle Eastern  political prisoners which is being promoted by the Alliance of Middle  Eastern Socialists and  a diverse group of socialist and labor activists  around the world. https://www.allianceofmesocialists.org/14964/
Choose one or more of the political prisoners featured in this  brochure and write about them in your individual or organizational  website or blog.  At meetings or other actions related to labor,  feminist and anti-racist causes,  bring up their names and talk about  the connections between their struggles and those in your country or  community.    Among Iranian labor activist political prisoners,  the  most well-known  is  Reza Shahabi,  the leader of the  Tehran Vahed Bus Workers Syndicate who has been in and out of prison for  the past 8 years,  and is currently in the notorious Rajai Shahr  prison,  suffering from a  prison-caused stroke.   Mohammad Habibi,   one of the leaders of the Tehran Teachers? Union was  violently  arrested in his classroom and in front of his students on March 3.   There is no information about where he is being held.  Two other  imprisoned teachers,  Mahmoud Beheshti Langarudi and Esmail Abdi, are currently languishing in prison.   The above mentioned brochure    features two Iranian women political prisoners, feminist and human  rights activists Narges Mohammadi and Kurdish women?s rights activist Zeynab Jalalian. You can also add the names of Atena Daemi and Golrokh Iraee, feminist and human rights activists who are currently on hunger strike.
 
  1. If you are interested in declaring your support for women?s protests  against the compulsory hijab and other forms of gender discrimination,  you can go to the socialist feminist statement below,  sign it, write  about it on your website, demand the release of the women and men who  have been arrested in the above mentioned protests:  https://www.allianceofmesocialists.org/statement-group-international-socialist-feminists-solidarity-iranian-women/

 You can also reach out to other socialist feminists and progressives   and explain that solidarity with the Iranian women?s protests against  the compulsory hijab in no way promotes  Islamophobia or hatred for  Muslims.  This struggle is about the right to choose,  the right to  autonomy,  the right to have control over one?s own body,  all of which  are among the most fundamental rights demanded by the feminist movement  around the world.
 
Frieda Afary
 March 8, 2018
 

Source: Iran: Labor Strikes, Women?s Protests Continue