Iranian socialist activist Morad Shirin spoke to The Clarion. For an update about repression against leading activists from the Haft Tappeh strike, see the website of the Shahrokh Zamani Action Campaign. For a sign you can print off for solidarity photos, see here. Email photos and/or messages to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pass on.
Right now there are many strikes going on Iran, with a noticeable growth in workers’ struggles in the last month or so. The two big ones are the Haft Tappeh sugarcane workers and the National Steel company in Ahvaz – both in Khuzestan in south west Iran. There have also been strikes by teachers, council workers, petrochemical processing workers and others.
The background is that people, especially workers, are finding it very difficult to make ends meet, partly as a result of US sanctions again Iran and the way the Iranian ruling class is passing the costs onto the workers.
There has been repression against all the struggles. The regime uses the excuse of sanctions to say every strike is threatening national security. As a result there are at least seven or eight teachers in prison right now. Many were arrested following their two two-day nationwide sit-ins.
The Haft Tappeh rep Esmail Bakhshi is jailed too; he has been beaten up and tortured. Their former leader Ali Nejati was arrested at home and beaten up – he has a heart problem, and no one has seen him since, not even his lawyer. They are also holding Sepideh Gholian, a social activist and journalist who was supporting the workers.
Bakhshi’s release has become a central demand for the workers. Yesterday they had a vote. 96% voted to continue the strike. They agreed to continue the strike as long as Bakhshi is not released and aslong as the company continues in private ownership.
The regime is trying to spread fake news to undermine the strike. They also tried to stir up divisions between the three nationalities among the workers – Persians, Arabs and Lors.
Haft Tappeh is a huge complex involving all the different parts of the sugarcane production process, with workers in all areas involved in the strike. It’s a huge workforce, about 4,000.
The women in the workforce have been very active, very involved in organising and leading the strike. Women activists have used tactics like blockading roads. There is also support from the families and communities of the strikers, including women and children, from supporting the strike with kitchens and so on to organising protests outside government buildings in Shush, the nearest town.
There are a lot of people spreading inaccurate information about it. For instance, the BBC Persian service said their main demand is the payment of unpaid wages, when in fact the workers have said no, it’s about ending private ownership of the company. The Haft Tappeh workers want either a workers’ council to run it or the state to take it over but under workers’ supervision. We need to get that message out there.
We need solidarity to support the strike, free our comrades and help the workers win their demands. Messages of solidarity are particularly important.
In terms of Britain, we want support from trade unions but also from the Labour Party. We have written to Jeremy Corbyn, asking him to respond to the Tories’ links with the Iranian rulers by building links with us. Support from grassroots trade union and Labour people is also crucial of course.
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