Iranian unionists, students prepare for nationwide protests

WASHINGTON (PAI)–Iranian unions, students and human rights activists readied nationwide protests, centered around the June 12 first anniversary of the fraudulent 2009 Iranian presidential election, according to websites and the son of a colleague of an imprisoned Iranian bus drivers union president.

The protests, which could stretch from June 10 through June 20, are designed to again call the world’s attention to repression by both Iran’s military and by street militia recruited by the clerically-run government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, they said. The Iranian government is nominally headed by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Besides again protesting the vote, unionists and activists will denounce the May 9 execution of five activists, including Kurdish teachers’ union member Farzad Kamangar, and the two-plus years of hard jail time — so far — for Mansour Osanloo, president of the Tehran Bus Drivers union.
Osanloo’s bus drivers’ union colleague, Ebrahim Mahdadi, has been held for at least a year in his latest jail stint, adds David Cockroft, president of the International Transport Federation, a coalition of worldwide transportation unions, including the Amalgamated Transit Union and the Transport Workers Union of America.

The ITF is vigorously protesting their imprisonment. He also wrote Ahmadinejad, “ITF and the rest of the international community is extremely concerned Farzad Kamangar and others appear to have been killed without due legal process, without notice and without even a chance to say goodbye to their families. This situation represents a horrendous lack of disrespect for basic human rights and decency.

“On behalf of the five million workers in the transport industry worldwide, I urge you to intervene robustly, personally and immediately to put a stop to the abuse of power and legal process perpetrated by elements within your administration,” he added.

Osanloo’s colleague — a fellow Tehran bus driver — told his son that Osanloo has been held in hazardous conditions, including months in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison, used by the former Shah’s secret police for torture. Osanloo was recently transferred to solitary confinement after “being held with dangerous criminals” or being incarcerated with addicts, according to ITF and the son.

Some months after Osanloo was arrested, the son visited ATU in Washington and got its leaders to send a formal letter to Ahmadinejad demanding the Iranian bus drivers’ leader’s release. Osanloo “has been tortured because they want him to come on state TV and say things against unions and he refuses,” the son reports. “The Intelligence Services want to crush someone’s character and personality, so that when they’re released, nobody will listen to or believe them.

“They used to kill you right away,” the son said of the torture in Evin prison. “Now they want to kill the person’s soul.”

The son of Osanloo’s colleague explained the Tehran bus drivers union was legally recognized by the present Iranian government. “But they want the union leader to be an agent of the government.  Instead, the bus drivers chose their own leader,” Osanloo. “Otherwise, it would be a sham union,” he said.

No charges have ever been filed against Osanloo. The son of Osanloo’s colleague said the union leader was picked up “because he’s part of the general uprising in Iran of students, workers, teachers and others for democracy.”

Others arrested include leaders of minority religious sects.

Worldwide leaders of the Baha’i faith organized protests on June 12 against Iran’s jailing of seven leaders. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among others, endorsed those Baha’i protests.

Besides the election protests, the demonstrators in Iran also want the union leaders to have the right to a public trial, to hear and respond to the charges against them, and to have legal counsel. Other protests against Iran’s actions included three in early June in the world’s most-populous Moslem country, Indonesia.

Other than the son’s approach to ATU, U.S. unions have not been asked for help, because of fear that U.S. support would enable the Iranian government to label Iranian union leaders as U.S. tools, U.S. union international specialists told PAI.

Nevertheless, the Iranians believe international protests and attention will help keep pressure on their government not to mistreat — or kill — union leaders.

That’s what happened to Kamangar, 35, a member of the Teachers’ Trade Association of Kurdistan, and four other Kurds, on May 9. Kamangar was accused of “endangering national security” and “enmity against God.”  He was sentenced to death, ITF said, in a 5-minute closed trial in Feb. 2008, and hung this year.  And sugar union leaders were picked up last November and have been held ever since, ITF reports.

The Obama administration denounces Iranian human rights abuses, but it concentrates on gaining support for tough international sanctions against Iran’s nuclear program.

Despite a deal between Iran, Turkey and Brazil on nuclear fuel, the Obama administration went forward with a new round of sanctions against Iran, passed by the United Nation’s Security Council this week.

Photo: International Transport Workers Federation/CC


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.