A meeting of 60 Iranian trade unionists was raided by security forces June 17 in the northern city of Karaj, and all were arrested. Most were members of the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organizations, including longtime labor activist Mahmoud Salehi. Most were released the following day, including Salehi, but nine remain in the custody and have been transferred to the special Intelligence Office in the city of Rasht. Advocates note that the meeting was peaceful, and authorities showed to warrants for the arrests.
Amnesty International has issued a call for release of the nine, noting that they could face charges and conviction for their peaceful labor activities, as have several others in recent years. Amnesty notes: “Trade unionist Reza Shahabi (Zakaria), detained in Tehran’s Evin prison since June 2010, has been sentenced to six years in prison on vaguely worded charges related to his trade union activities. He is in poor health as a result of numerous hunger strikes in protest of his prison conditions. Teachers’ Association activist Rasoul Bodaghi has also been sentenced to six years for ‘spreading propaganda against the system’ and ‘gathering and colluding against national security’ for his peaceful activism.” Adds the human rights group: “State-controlled workers’ bodies focus on promoting ‘Islamic values’ rather than on defending the rights of workers… Independent unions and associations have been crushed by the Iranian government. Those who try to unionize pay a heavy price.” (IASWI Special Newsletter, June 21 [PDF], CODIR, June 20; Justice for Iranian Workers, June 16)