Paris-Geneva, April 30, 2014 – On the eve of May 1, 2014, International Workers’ Day, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, an FIDH-OMCT joint programme, is drawing attention to the plight of Iranian trade unionists. The number of independent unionists arrested and prosecuted or otherwise ill-treated has been rising over the past few years. A large number of such unionists have served prison terms in various cities, have been fined, have lost their jobs or have occasionally been forced to flee the country to avoid further persecution.
On early morning of April 30, 2014, the Iranian authorities detained two trade unionists, Messrs. Jafar Azimzadeh and Jamil Mohammadi, and tried to detain Ms. Parvin Mohammadi. All three are members of the Board of Directors of the Free Union of Iranian Workers. Last year, they organised a petition with 40,000 signatures protesting the worsening conditions of workers and were among the unionists who tried to organise a May 1 demonstration. A number of other unionists were summoned for interrogations last week when they were warned not to go ahead with the May 1 demonstration.
Moreover, at least 12 other unionists and labour activists are currently in prison in Iran and a number of others are facing long-term prison sentences merely for trying to organise their colleagues in independent unions.
Messrs. Shahrokh Zamani (serving a total of 11.5 years in prison) and Mohammad Jarrahi (5 years) are founding members of the Painters’ and Decorators' Union as well as members of the Committee to Pursue the Establishment of Labour Unions (CPELU). Mr. Behnam (Assad) Ebrahimzadeh, another member of the CPELU and a child rights activist, is serving 5 years in prison.
At least three members of the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organisations (CCHFWO) are serving prison terms in the Kurdistan province of Iran: Messrs. Yousef Ab-Kharabat (2 years); 76 year-old Mohammad Molanaei (1 year); and Vahed Seyedeh (2 years).
Other members of the CCHFWO who have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from one year to 42 months and are appealing, include: Messrs Vafa Ghaderi, Ghaleb Hosseini Khaled Hosseini, Mohammad Karimi, Jamal Minashiri, Ghassem Mostafapour, Afshin Nadimi and Hadi Tanoumand.
At least five members of the Teachers’ Association of Iran (TAI) are currently serving long-term imprisonment: Mr. Mahmood Bagheri is serving 4.5 years (commuted from the initial 9.5 years in an amnesty); Mr. Rassoul Bodaghi (6 years); Mr. Mohammad Davari (6 years); and Mr. Mehdi Farahi-Shandiz (3 years). Another member of the TAI, Mr. Abdolreza Ghabari, is serving a 15-year sentence after his death sentence for contacts with opposition groups abroad was commuted.
Other leading TAI members, Messrs. Ali-Akbar Baghani, Mahmoud Beheshti-Langaroudi, and Alireza Hashemi, have been sentenced to long-term imprisonment, which they have appealed.
Mr. Reza Shahabi, Treasurer of the Syndicate of Workers of United Bus Company of Tehran, has been serving a 6-year prison term since June 2010, while a number of other members of the Syndicate have served prison terms or faced other sentences and persecution.
Messrs Shahabi, Jarrahi and Molanaei are in pressing need of medical care, which they have been consistently deprived of.
These unionists are punished only for exercising their rights to freedom of speech, assembly and association, as enshrined in the International Covenant for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights to which Iran is a State party, as well as the relevant conventions of the International Labour Organisation, by endeavouring to form independent trade-unions and to promote rights of the working people in Iran.
The Observatory is calling on the Iranian authorities to release all those imprisoned and to stop prosecution and persecution of all trade unionists, by dropping the charges against them and putting an end to the practice of summoning and interrogating unionists.