The ‘trampling of humanity’ continues in Iran
Striking Haft-Tappeh sugar cane workers, Iran News Wire

Last November, when protests erupted in Tehran, rapidly spreading across Iran, the Committee for the Defense of the Iranian People’s Rights (Codir) highlighted the connections between the economic plight of the Iranian people and the ongoing abuse of human rights in the so-called Islamic Republic.

A recent report by Amnesty International, Trampling Humanity, confirms the extent of the abuse by the Iranian regime, as it attempted to suppress the protests and strike fear into any opposition to the theocratic dictatorship.

The Amnesty report concluded that the Iranian regime had, “committed widespread patterns of serious human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture, and other ill-treatment, and flagrant breaches of the right to a fair trial.”

The report reinforces the consistent pattern of behavior by the regime, which has responded to opposition and dissent within Iran for over 40 years in the same fashion.

The extent to which the Iranian regime engaged in a campaign of terror against its own population, following the November 2019 protests, was emphasized in the Amnesty report when it stated: “Individuals who had participated in the protests, in many cases peacefully, were identified through images taken by security officials or surveillance cameras and were arrested from their homes or workplaces and, in the cases of some children, at their schools.”

The extent to which the regime pursued those involved in the protests at any level can only be understood in the context of a regime unable to deliver the needs of its population and fearful of the extent to which disaffection had spread.

This even went so far as to reach into hospitals where the wounded were receiving treatment following the security forces’ brutal response to the protests.

As Amnesty reported: “Many protesters and bystanders were also arrested from hospitals while seeking medical care for life-threatening gunshot wounds or other injuries sustained during the protests.”

Amnesty’s investigation identified at least 500 people who had been subjected to criminal investigation following the November 2019 protests.

It is likely that this figure is an underestimate, given the notorious unreliability of the Iranian judicial system, the arbitrary nature of arrest and detention, and the difficulty of contacting prisoners and their families.

While the Amnesty report provides a snapshot of the issues faced by those campaigning for human rights in Iran at a particular time, the ongoing nature of the regime’s oppression of dissent and its mismanagement of the economy mean that street protests and strike action are becoming a more regular feature of life in the Islamic Republic.

Workers at the Haft-Tappeh sugarcane plant in the south of Iran have been engaged in industrial action since June 15, demanding their unpaid wages, medical insurance, the reinstatement of dismissed colleagues, the return of the industrial giant to the state sector, and the return of the funds embezzled by the privatized company to the workers.

The action has resulted in some gains, with the employers being forced to pay one month’s unpaid wages, although only some received their money initially.

It took a further month of protest before the rest were paid — and this was followed by the employer then paying a further two months’ pay.

Non-contract workers owed money got nothing; these are mostly seasonal workers whose rights are not covered by Iranian law and whose situation is particularly desperate.

In a further development, on the strikers’ demand for the reinstatement of fired workers, it was announced that three of those who were dismissed, under the pretext of security allegations, will be returned to work but only after they sign letters promising not to commit further acts of protest.

One dismissed worker, Esmail Bakhshi, remains banned from returning to work.

The new round of protests at Haft-Tappeh has coincided with the trial of Omid Asadbeigi, the CEO of the company who, along with others, is charged with “participation in forming an organized network of sabotage in the monetary and foreign currency market of the country by smuggling foreign currency.”

This conforms with what workers have been alleging about the financial corruption of managers of the privatized company.

The situation at Haft-Tappeh is symptomatic of the way in which the Iranian regime mismanage the economy, relying on a corrupt and self-serving private sector to run key industries, previously state controlled, siphoning off profits for themselves while sucking much-needed credit out of the Iranian economy overall.

The negative impact of this approach is reflected in the street protests which are a regular feature of Iranian life and the ongoing action at facilities such as Haft-Tappeh.

The Iranian regime has also found itself at the center of an international furor recently over death sentences handed out to 27-year-old wrestling champion Navid Afkari over his alleged role in protests against the government in 2018.

Afkari is a decorated wrestler in Iran who has won medals in multiple national tournaments.

Afkari and his two brothers were each charged with more than 20 different crimes, including “attending illegal gatherings, assembly and conspiracy to commit crimes against national security and insulting the supreme leader.”

All three men were found guilty but Afkari is the only one set to die for the alleged crimes, receiving two death sentences.

His brothers each received lengthy prison sentences and were ordered to receive 74 lashes. In addition to his death sentences, Afkari is also set to receive 74 lashes.

Confessions were extracted from the three men using torture and as such should not be admissible in any fair trial. However, the brothers were, typically, given no access to legal representation.

Afkari has even found an unlikely supporter in U.S. President Donald Trump, who took to Twitter to call upon the Iranian authorities not to carry out the execution. Given his attitude towards Iran and the impact of U.S. economic sanctions upon the Iranian economy, it is unlikely that Trump’s view will hold much sway in Tehran.

However, international protests continue and Afkari’s case is gathering significant attention in sporting circles around the world.

The human rights abuses in Iran’s prisons, the ongoing strike wave, the protests on the streets, all underline the continuing disaffection with the regime in Iran and the growing dissatisfaction of the population with the policies of the government.

Codir will continue to highlight these abuses and call for action on behalf of the people of Iran in their ongoing fight for peace, democracy, and social justice.

Jane Green is a member of Codir’s national executive council. For more information please visit www.codir.net and/or contact Jane Green on codir_info@btinternet.com.

Morning Star


CONTRIBUTOR

Jane Green
Jane Green

Jane Green is the national campaign officer of the UK-based CODIR, Committee for the Defence of the Iranian People's Rights.

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