Iran rights group urges world pressure to free labor, women detainees

Human rights and trade union organizations across the globe are combining to call for the release from prison of participants in the May Day rally in Iran’s capital, Tehran, this month.

The May Day rally, which was organized by independent Iranian labor organizations in Laleh Park in Tehran, was attacked by government security and intelligence forces. Many participants were beaten and arrested. Some activists who were not attending the event were arrested at their homes and taken to the notorious Evin prison.

Among the imprisoned labor and social activists are women leaders Maryam Mohseni, Fatemeh Shahnazari, Laleh Mohammadi and Afsane Azim Zadeh, and the jailed men include Behrouz Khabbaz, Jafar Azimzadeh, Fayeq Kayxosravi, Mansour Hayatqeybi, Gholamreza Khani, Saeed Youzi, Mehdi Farahani Shandiz, Habib Sadeqi, Shahpour Ehsani-rad, Nikzad Zangeneh, Amir Yaghoubali, Masoud Loghmani, Kaveh Mozafari, Pouya Poushtareh and Taha Valizadeh, all of whom were arrested during the demonstration. Jelveh Javaheri, a women’s movement activist, was arrested at her home.

Every May Day thousands of workers, students and women gather in Tehran and other cities across Iran to protest the authoritarian theocratic regime ruling the country. Since the early years of its rule, the regime has tried to put an end to this tradition and stop May Day being marked as a celebration of international workers' solidarity. The authorities usually ban demonstrations and rallies organized by nongovernmental trade unionists and workers’ organizations. Participants at May Day events in Iran regularly face arrest, torture and even the threat of execution for exercising a right that is regarded as basic in most other countries.

The May 1 arrests this year are the latest in a pattern of ongoing harassment by the Iranian government. It has sought to suppress the voices of many peace and trade union activists, resulting in prison sentences for Mansour Osanloo and the ongoing smear campaign against lawyer and peace activist Shirin Ebadi.

Jamshid Ahmadi, assistant general secretary of the UK-based Committee for the Defense of the Iranian People’s Rights (CODIR), stressed the importance of putting pressure upon the Iranian government.

“We are within a month of the presidential election in Iran,” he said, “and the regime will be more sensitive than usual to pressure which can be applied form the outside world to highlight its record on human rights.”

“In spite of the media clampdown in Iran,” Ahmadi said, “information does reach the ordinary people. The action of the regime in arresting these activists is not popular, but people feel powerless unless they see that there is wider support. That is why we are calling upon the international community to join us in demanding the release of all of those unjustly imprisoned on the 1st of May and the release of all other peace and trade union leaders imprisoned in Iran.”

CODIR is calling for individuals and organizations to send messages demanding the release of political prisoners in Iran. In the U.S., such messages can be sent to the Iranian Interests Section, located in the Embassy of Pakistan: 2209 Wisconsin Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20007; phone: (202) 965-4990; e-mail: requests@daftar.org.