The Iranian regime arrested around 30 steel workers in Ahvaz, the capital of oil-rich Khuzestan Province. This happened on 36th day of a workers’ strike and walkout over unpaid wages.
In recent weeks, hungry workers at the National Steel Industrial Group and their families have taken to the streets of Ahvaz. They have shouted against local officials, the factory management and the “steel mafia”, which has plunged the workers into misery and hunger. The recent struggles of workers in Haft-Tappeh and Ahvaz have inspired other sections of the population. University students from various cities have expressed solidarity, and environmental activists joined the workers’ march in Ahvaz.
The regime, which fears the continual protests may extend to other branches, has decided to intimidate workers. However, a day after the crackdown, workers are still in the streets calling for the freedom of their colleagues. Karim Sayyahi, a steel worker, addressed a rally a one day before his arrest and said: “The workers’ power is the highest power. Don’t fear threats and prison. Don’t fear imprisonment and execution, because you are out for your rights.”
The regime’s response to hungry workers only adds fuel to fire. The regime that has extravagantly spent billions of dollars for its ambitious expansionist policies in the Middle East, equipping and arming paramilitary groups in Iraq and Syria, and greasing the palm of reactionary religious leaders in many countries, is unable to pay wages of workers! The regime’s propaganda machine hypocritically broadcasts struggles of the people in France but brutally suppress hungry workers in its cities.
The National Steel Industrial Group was founded in 1960s and has a capacity of producing two million tonnes of steel product. In 2009, it was privatised. However, in an escalating situation following the nuclear sanctions and growing corruption and infighting, the regime victimised the owner of the factory, who was a tycoon and collaborator of an oil smuggling network that worked in cahoots with military forces. In a show trial, the factory owner, Amir Mansour Arya, was sentenced to death and the factory was assigned to major state banks. The banks, instead of restoring production, have plundered the factory and sold some parts of its machinery. The crisis that has paralysed factories in Khuzestan is going to happen in almost all Iranian industries. Obviously, not only the fanatic Islamic regime, but also no other pro-capitalist agenda, can settle the problem. As workers have mooted the idea of management by councils, only re-nationalisation under workers’ control which can organise production and distribution based on public interests can be an urgent and immediate solution.
Under these harsh circumstances, and in the face of one of the most oppressive regimes in the world, Iranian workers need a strong internationalist solidary message from workers across the world.