The vast majority of the around 500 Tehran bus workers arrested on January 27 are still in Tehran’s Evin jail without access to family or lawyers and some apparently have begun a hunger strike on January 29. Between 30 to 50 of the workers originally detained are reported to have been released, apparently after having agreed under duress to sign guarantees that they would not participate in strikes or other protest actions. But the overwhelming majority of those workers rounded up remain in detention.
The workers union, of the Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, has called further protests today, February 3, and tomorrow. This union was banned after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and then reactivated in 2004 although it is not legally recognized. As we previously reported, (January 5 and 31), on 22 December 2005 after the union had organised a number of protest actions regarding wages and conditions the police arrested 12 of the union’s leaders at their homes but quickly released four of them. Further union members were arrested on 25 December while staging a bus strike in Tehran to call for the release of their colleagues but they and all those arrested earlier were released in the following days with the exception of a key union leader Mansour Ossanlou. He continues to be detained, denied access to lawyers and is said possibly to be facing serious charges of having contact with exiled opposition groups and instigating armed revolt. At the end January the mass arrests took place as workers prepared to go on strike on January 28 in pursuit of their demands for the release of Mansour Ossanlou, higher wages and better conditions.
Solidarity messages, especially from workers’ organisations, are vital. Hypocritically the US government is trying to exploit the situation by demanding the release of the jailed United Bus Company of Tehran (Sharekat-e Vahed) workers and saying they support the workers’ demands, something it did not do during last December’s strike by New York’s transit workers. Internationally labour organisations must show Iranian workers who their real friends are and not allow the Iranian government to try to link the Tehran bus workers with the Bush administration.
Internationally trade unionists, socialists and other activists are asked to support these workers. Resolutions should be passed in support of:
- Immediate release of all the arrested workers, including the leader of the union, Mansour Ossanlou
- Drop all the charges against the members of the Tehran transport workers’ union
- End on attacks on the Tehran transport workers’ union and all other genuine trade unions in Iran.
- Agree to the transport workers’ demands for increased pay and better working conditions.
Emails and letters of protest should be sent to the President of Islamic Republic of Iran:
Dr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection
Islamic Republic of Iran
Fax: ++98 21 648 0665
Letters of protest should also be addressed to the Iranian Embassies or to:
The Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
622 Third Ave. New York,
Fax: ++1 212 867 7086