”Osanlou, Osanlou, azad bayad gardad” (Osanlou must be released). That was the slogan 15 February when protests were organised at Iranian embassies around the world. Later the same day, several trade union leaders of the bus drivers in Tehran were released.
The leader of the bus drivers’ union Mansour Osanlou, who was arrested on 22 December, however, is still in prison with other trade union activists.
The International Transport Workers’ Federation announced the global protest day. In Stockholm around 60 people gathered outside the Iranian embassy lunchtime Wednesday. Speakers from different Iranian organisations and parties in exile reported from protests. In Iran demonstrations took place outside parliament in Tehran and in several cities in Kurdistan. A speaker spoke about students at the university in Tehran in an earlier protest with placards with Che Guevara.
”Mansour Osanlou has in short time become one of the most well known workers’ leader internationally. The bus drivers have set an example for workers globally. But papers, radio and TV, which cover Iran a lot, are quiet about the strikes and struggles of workers”, said Per-Åke Westerlund, Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden) in a solidarity speech. He appealed to Swedish trade unions to support the bus drivers.
Many Iranian parties participated in the demonstration Saturday 18 February to support Per Johansson, the metro drivers’ union leader sacked by Connex.
The bus drivers trade union played an important role in the overthrow of the Shah in 1978-79, but was declared illegal by the regime in the early 1980s. In 2003, underground activities started again. During last year’s upswing of strikes, the forces of the regime attacked the bus drivers several times.
When Mansour Osanlou was arrested in a night-time police raid on his home 22 December, thousands of workers answered with strikes and mass meetings. The regime responded with sharp repression to stop a planned mass strike on 29 January. One thousand three hundred workers were arrested. Also their families were attacked, five children were arrested and a 2-year-old girl was injured by the police. During the strike day, policemen, soldiers and other state scabs drove buses.
The Iranian regime is not acting from a position of strength. Increased income for the regime from higher oil prices have not been reflected in better living standards for the working class. The strikes are a threat to the regime, which is trying to boost support by posing as ”anti-imperialist” in the nuclear confrontation with the US.
As part of its campaign against the Iranian government the Bush administration has hypocritically supported the Tehran bus workers. The working class in Iran is challenging the regime, but the best activists will be aware that Bush is no friend of theirs since the US and capitalism in the West, are interested in oil supplies, new markets and opportunities to exploit workers. The protest at the embassy on Stockholm can be viewed at: www.radio-international.org
From this week’s Offensiv, paper of Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (CWI Sweden).