Iranian socialist Nasrin Parvez was imprisoned for eight years by the Iranian regime during the 1980s. She spoke to Solidarity about why British socialists should make solidarity with Iranian political prisoners and workers.
The situation for Iranian political prisoners is very bad, getting worse. For example though they say they have shut down Kahrizak detention centre (outside Tehran) but they have not.
People are beginning to talk about how they have been raped in prison, following the June protests. This development started after a letter on the subject was issued by (opposition cleric) Mehdi Karroubi, calling for an enquiry. Rape has always happened in Iranian prisons and many people committed suicide because of their experience. But before now people did not talk about it, people didn’t have a voice. [There have also been some demonstrations about the issue in Iran recently].
Internationally people are beginning to do something about it. For instance the friends and family of Zahra Kazemi, a dual Iranian-Canadian national, who was raped, tortured and murdered in 2003 after taking photos of Evin prison. There was a big cover up. They are pressing for the Canadian government to sue Iran in the International Court of Justice in the Hague.
They are still arresting people. 5,000 people have been put in jail in the last two months. Very many people, hundreds, more, are still missing. And they are trying to extract confessions. This is terrible, no matter who it is being done too (including former members of the Islamic regime).
On 19 August Iran will execute 21 year old Behnod Shojaie who committed a murder during a street fight in Tehran when he was 17. [Iran is the world leader in executing juveniles].
Our protest on 11 September, calling on the International Labour Organisation not to recognise Iran is important (see box). In the first place because a lot of workers are in prison. But also denying people the right to organise is a violation of human rights. If workers cannot organise they cannot defend themselves. For 30 years the Islamic regime has been trying very hard to stop workers from organising.
If the ILO decided not to recognise Iranian representatives [they are always from the government] this would give Iranian workers some hope. They will see that an international organisation has some sympathy with them.
The Iranian government has signed all these ILO conventions (including one on gender equality!) but not implemented any of them. And they have not been punished. Why? It is because the governmental people in the ILO all want to carry on working with each other. And they do not care what is going on in Iran, what is happening to the workers, to the people.
But the ILO is not the same as the UN, because the international trade unions are involved. We might, by making this protest, get the trade unions to open their eyes. If the ILO is not for the workers’ benefit then it is useless.
The least thing that European trade unions can call for is the same rights for all workers all over the world. No matter where they are born, no matter what work they do, workers need the same rights and the same wages. Global capitalism needs workers in Iran to be as exploited as they are. We should not let that happen. The cost of living in Iran is the same as it is in Europe. Yet wages are much much lower. If workers in Iran had the same wages as European workers, it would benefit everyone. European workers would not lose their jobs to “cheaper workers”.
Trade unionists and trade unions, not just the left, need to put pressure on their international organisations, and build a campaign around this issue of equality, justice and rights.
Solidarity with Iranian Workers
Protest outside Iranian Embassy, Princes Gate, London, SW7 1PT
Friday 11 September 4.30-6.30 pm
• For the right to join and organise independent trade unions in Iran
• The International Labour Organisation should stop recognising Iran as a member state
• Free jailed trade unionists and all political prisoners