Tehran: workers upstage official Mayday rally

From our correspondent Mahmood Ketabchi. The text, with photos from Tehran, is on his blog, Hammer & Broom.

Workers take control of the government sponsored May Day rally in Tehran

As many Iranian workers prepared to celebrate May 1st, International Labor Day, House of Labor, a pro-Islamic government organization, called for a labor rally in front of the former US Embassy in Tehran. According to different sources, 8,000 to 10,000 workers participated in the rally. In addition to workers from Tehran, many came with buses from from various cities and provinces, such as, Ghazvin, Qom, Ghilan, Kashan, Hamadan, Karaj, Damghan, Mashhad, etc.

The organizers of the rally attempted in vain to turn the May Day gathering into a show of support for the Islamic regime and Iran’s nuclear program. Even though the rally was carefully orchestrated to benefit the Islamic regime and provide it with some propaganda , participating workers from the very start took control of the event.

Alireza Mahjoob and Ali Rabii, the leaders of the House of Labor, praised Iran’s nuclear achievements and policies of the government. In their speech, they also condemned the cartoons of Muhammad as a western conspiracy against Islam. However, many participants became very angry at the speeches. They said they came to the rally to speak about their conditions and plight, but instead they were being lectured about Iran’s nuclear achievements.

The protesting workers called the speakers “traitors�? and “government men.�? They chanted “workers representative must come from amid the workers.�? The noise and the chanting was so loud that no one could hear the speakers.

Some workers complained that they were forced to come to the rally and others said that the organizers of the rally made workers promise that they would not violate the plans for the rally. They also complained that the House of Labor tried to hand pick workers for the rally.

As tension grew among the participants, several thousand workers broke away from the rally and began to march towards Tehran University. But security forces intervened; they surrounded workers and threatened them with violence and arrest. Under police pressure, protesting workers were forced disperse.

The chants of the workers included:

Bread, housing, and freedom are our rights!
Salary increase above inflation!
Freedom and Equality are our rights!
Capitalist government, shame, shame!
Look at France, think about our lives!
Let go of nuclear power, think of our lives!
worker, student, and teachers, unity, unity!
Strike and organization are our rights!
Political prisoners must be freed!
Labor minster, resign, resign!

When some workers were arrested by the security forces, other workers booed them and chanted “security forces, shame, shame.” As a result, everyone was released.

It is important to point out that last year, the House of Labor tried to turn May Day celebration into a presidential campaign for Hashami Rafsanjani, one the top mullahs in Iran. But workers disrupted the rally and prevented Rafsanjani from coming to the event.

See our last posts on the Iran crisis and labor struggles in the Islamic Republic. See also our last commentary from Mahmood Ketabchi.