Hundreds of striking bus workers of the state-owned Vahed bus company are still in detention in Tehran today following the vicious attack by thousands of members of the security forces on their strike on Saturday 28th January.
Reports are coming in of more arrests last night and today, in particular in transport districts 4, 5 and 6. A gathering of workers in district 6 last night to press for the release of their jailed colleagues was attacked by the security forces, resulting in more arrests. Workers are being intimidated into signing pledges to give up strike and protest actions or risk being fired. This morning around 200 members of the security forces swarmed district 4, threatening families not to take part in any protest action.
The arrests started from Friday 27th January, the eve of the strike, during police raids on the homes of the strikers and union leaders. The management of the company and the company’s Islamic Council worked hand in hand with the security forces to help identify the workers and assist in the arrests.
Union officials said the brutality of the security forces was indescribable. The wives and children of some union executive members were also arrested, but later released. They were taken out of bed and beaten up during raids on Friday night. The beatings continued in detention. 2-year-old daughter of Yaghoub Salimi was injured in her face in the attack, when she was thrown into a waiting patrol van. Her 12-year-old elder sister, Mahdiye, described the ordeal in detail in an interview yesterday with a radio station abroad (summary transcript in a separate release). The wife of Mansoor Hayat Gheibi is still in prison.
On Saturday, as the workers arrived at the picket lines, they were rounded up. Many were verbally abused, threatened and beaten up to force them to drive the buses. Those who refused were taken away. Some buses had been moved the night before, and replacement drivers had been enlisted from among the military and mercenary Baseej militia.
The majority of the detainees are now in the high security Evin Prison, where the seven members of the union’s leadership, including the head of the executive, Mansoor Ossanlou, were already being held. This prison is notorious for being the centre for the jailing, torture and execution of thousands of political prisoners.
The strike has had the unanimous support of the 17,000 employees of the state-owned company, who have been battling the management and authorities since last year. Their demands include a decent pay increase, introduction of collectively negotiated agreements and recognition of their union. Since the arrest of their leaders, they have been fighting for their release too. The head of the union, Ossanlou, has been in jail for over five weeks.
In a letter to world labour and progressive organisations, the union executive said that in the light of what the Islamic Republic regime had done, they had no option but to continue with their fight with even greater resolve and unity. It thanked international labour and progressive organisations for their solidarity so far and appealed to them to keep up their support.
WPI has called for a powerful and immediate response to the bus workers’ appeal by all possible means.
Protest letters may be sent to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran firstname.lastname@example.org . Please forward copies to us so that they may be brought to the attention of the workers and people of Iran.
A strike fund has been set up in aid of the bus workers and their families. Please make urgently-needed donations to any of the following bank accounts and notify us at the same. All contributions will be individually acknowledged. More bank accounts are to be announced soon. Please contact us for further info.
Account no: 49606174
Sort code: 60 07 38
Konto nr: 400 11 845 429
Bank rekening: 7299850
By the International Labour Solidarity Committee of the Worker-communist Party of Iran
Co-ordinator: Shahla Daneshfar (email@example.com)
Public Relations: Bahram Soroush (firstname.lastname@example.org)
* Tehran - mass arrests of striking bus drivers
* Iranian bus drivers arrested after no fares action