Iran: One hundred and seventy strikes in July

International solidarity week with workers’ struggles

An international week of solidarity with workers’ struggle in Iran takes place from 1 October. This year has seen a wave of strikes and workers’ protests in Iran. In July, alone, there were 170 strikes.

During a day of protest on 16 July, strikes and street protests took place in several cities, with, in total, more than 50,000 workers participating. At the Khodro factory, which produces French Peugeot cars, production totally stopped. Workers at the factory demanded higher minimum wages for all workers, temporary jobs to be replaced with permanent contracts, reemployment of those sacked, and pensions that retired workers can live on.

Almost every day there are strikes and workers’ protests in Iran, mainly in bigger cities, such as Tehran and Isfahan. Most strikes last a couple of hours or a day, but this year has also seen several strikes for one or two weeks. One recent action was on 17 September, when 300 workers on a tyre factory in Tehran went on strike and organised a demonstration outside their factory. They protested against irregular working conditions, and going for many days without work and pay.

Not just factory workers have been on strike, but also teachers, bus drivers and health workers. The strikes are most often against worsening conditions, redundancies and because wages are unpaid. But there have also been demands for the right to organise and for increased minimum wages.

”In Iran there are no trade union rights. In most cases there is a gathering of workers outside a workplace or the offices of the authorities, with demands for unpaid wages, but no outspoken political demands. Most are met with violence from the regime or local police”, Iranian activists in Sweden told Offensiev.

”The only union allowed is the Islamic ’union’ called Khane-kargar (Workers’ House) which was created by the regime. Workers that are sacked or don’t receive wages have no organisation to turn to and get assistance.”

Several million are unemployed in Iran and do not have unemployment benefits. More than 20 per cent of the population survives below the poverty line, according to official statistics. This is a result of the brutal capitalist policies of the Islamist regime.

A recent uprising in Kurdistan, in July-August, started when well-known activist Shivan Qaderi was tortured and killed by soldiers. Up to 50 unarmed demonstrators were killed, among them many youth, and hundreds arrested. The regime has 100,000 soldiers based in Iranian Kurdistan. This time, however, was it impossible to hold back the struggle of the workers. Textile workers in Sanandaj and Kashan were on strike against the oppression and demanded all those arrested should be released. The strength of the workers was shown when the strikers in Sanandaj received wages also for the 17 strike days.

The present wave of strikes in Iran are an inspiration for workers in all countries. At the same time, the working class in Iran needs support. Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna (the CWI in Sweden) will participate in solidarity actions in Stockholm this week, including a solidarity social and a demonstration.

What is needed in Iran is a revolutionary socialist party of workers, built out of struggle. Such a party needs to overthrow the theocratic regime and to defend national rights for the Kurds. The only solution out of today’s misery is a socialist Iran, as part of a socialist Middle East.

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September 2005