Iran: regime on the back foot

Submitted by AWL on 18 December, 2019 - 1:20 Author: Martin Thomas
Iran protest

On 6 December 2019, Esmail Bakhshi, a leader of the Haft Tappeh sugar cane complex workers, returned to work.

He was released from jail, despite a long sentence after the 2018 Haft Tappeh dispute.

His reinstatement was one of the conditions on which the Haft Tappeh workers agreed to suspend their latest strike on 3 December, after 72 days.

The Haft Tappeh workers also report that Sepideh Gholian (jailed alongside Esmail Bakhshi after the 2018 strike, released, then jailed again) was released from prison again on 3 December, on bail of 200,000 tomans (around £36,000).

The Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Workers’ Union calls for the unconditional release of all detainees.

The workers also mentioned many promises by their boss:

• Reinstatement of sacked workmates in less than five days
• Closing the litigation cases of all workmates at the Shush Prosecutor’s Office
• Depriving the employer of the authority to dismiss workers outside of the Disciplinary Committee proceedings
• Twice-yearly distribution of work clothes and shoes
• Timely payment of back pay
• Payment of retirees’ pensions within three months
• The immediate and unconditional renewal of insurance books and payment of insurance lists
• Various benefits and bonuses, including spouse benefit, hard labour, transport, rewards and productivity bonuses and so on.
However, on 4 December, Branch 28 of the Iranian regime’s Revolutionary Court sentenced Neda Naji to five years in prison on conspiracy charges and a further six months for “insulting state officials”.

Naji, a student and workers’ rights activist, is one of the dozens of protesters arrested on May Day 2019 outside the Iranian regime’s parliament, and has been in jail since then.

The Tehran bus workers’ union (Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company) has reported:

“On 15 November 2019, following a sudden 300% gasoline price hike, protests erupted across Iran, mostly by working-class and underprivileged people. Dissatisfaction among Iranians are at such high levels that in just 48 hours mass protests spread out to more than 100 cities...

“These protests by the oppressed people were crushed and bloodied in the most cruel and ruthless way… Hundreds, as young as 13 and 14 years old, were shot dead. At least another 1,000 were injured and more than 8,000 detained. State officials... blocked the Internet in the whole country and even disrupted cell-phone services in many areas.

“Military and security forces along with plain-clothes officers were unleashed to silence the protesters by lethal force and shooting directly at protesters...

“The protests result from more than three decades of continuous and sustained attacks against the working class and oppressed people by the capitalist system in Iran and its governments. The existing profound class division in Iran is the result of the government’s neoliberal austerity policies, pro-capitalist labour law reforms... massive layoffs, cutting off subsidies and raising prices, embezzlement, corruption, looting of public resources…

“There is a growing class of corrupt capitalists and government connected super wealthy who are living extremely luxurious and aristocratic lives. There is an undeniable new phenomenon called ‘the Rich Kids of Iran’.

“In contrast… sleeping in cardboard boxes, living in shanty towns, homelessness, ‘Kolbars’ or porters who carry goods on the back across the border, street peddling, prostitution, sifting through garbage for food, widespread addiction, and millions of unemployed youths without any government support are among other rampant phenomena in Iran”.

Iranian socialist Morad Shirin has told Solidarity: “The protesters have also chanted slogans like ‘Down with the dictator’ (i.e., Khamenei).

“The petrol price rise was just the spark for an outpouring of anti-regime sentiment. This can also be seen in what people burned as well as the obvious petrol stations: banks, government or state offices, and some security vehicles.

“In some sections there’s solidarity with protests in Iraq. But the general mood is one of being against the regime meddling (and spending money) in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine etc.

“There are some differences within the regime, but I’m not sure it could be called a split. The main differences seem to be on how to cool things down after they’ve killed hundred (perhaps thousands) of people.

“Do they call all the protesters saboteurs? do they give all the bodies back to their relatives? and so on”.

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