Iran: Authorities Step up Anti-Union Repression, as Journalists Seek Protection and Women Demand Rights

The ITUC is alarmed at reports from Iran of further attacks on and detention of workers for engaging in trade union activity, with security forces conducting night-time raids on the homes of 10 steelworkers earlier this month, and further action against trade unionists from other sectors as well as people who participated in protests in January.

The ITUC has been informed that the steelworkers, from the National Steel complex of Ahvaz, were held in detention for several days. They and their colleagues took strike action after not being paid for three months.

On 5 March, Mohammad Habibi, Secretary of the Iranian Teachers’ Federation, was arrested in his classroom in front of his students. Security forces assaulted him using pepper spray, took him in handcuffs to his house which they searched, then removed him to Evin prison where other trade unionists are already in detention.

Workers at the Haft Tapeh sugar complex, who had not been paid for six months, have finally received payment after a long campaign during which protesting workers faced severe repression.

“Non-payment of wages is a major problem in Iran. Even after the lifting of international sanctions, economic mismanagement is rife, due in large measure to the pervasive hold that the Iranian military has on the economy, and the influence of arch-conservative clerics. Working people and their families are paying the price,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

In an unprecedented move, the BBC, supported by the International Federation of Journalists has appealed to the UN Human Rights Council over intimidation of families of London-based journalists working for the broadcaster’s Persian Service, pointing to threats, travel bans, and arrests of family members of the BBC journalists inside Iran.

Dozens of Iranian women who have protested against compulsory clothing rules have been arrested and face serious charges, while on 1 March more than 30 young women who tried to join male-only crowds for a major football match at the Azadi Stadium were detained, in violation of FIFA’s statutes and its human rights policy which forbid discrimination including on the basis of gender. Iran is the only team that qualified for the men’s World Cup in Russia which bans women from watching men’s matches.

“People from across Iranian society are suffering from the repression, and it is on the increase as hardline conservatives and the military seek to maintain power and influence, to the detriment of the people, and to the country’s already poor international reputation,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.