Despite around 200 workers being released the majority of around 500 Tehran bus workers, arrested on January 27, are still in Tehran’s Evin Prison. Those released have not been reinstated into their jobs with the United Bus Company of Tehran (Sharekat-e Vahed) and have been told that the Ministry of Labour will decide their future.
At the same time, it is reported that another member of the leadership of the workers union, the Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, Hassan Mohammadi, was arrested.
As we have previously reported (January 5, 31 and February 3) this union was banned after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and then reactivated in 2004, although it is not legally recognized. Last year, on 22 December, the police arrested 12 of the union’s leaders after the organisation of a number of protests regarding wages and conditions. While 4 of these 12 were quickly released, there were then more arrests of union members on 25 December who were staging a strike to call for the release of their colleagues.
In the following days, all those arrested were released, with the exception of a key union leader, Mansour Ossanlou. He continues to be detained, denied access to lawyers and is said to be possibly facing serious charges of having contact with exiled opposition groups and instigating armed revolt. The mass arrests at the end of January took place as workers prepared to go on strike again to demand the release of Mansour Ossanlou, and for 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 the Bush administration 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 union leaders
- 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.