News : Human rights

Nine Iranian workers sentenced to prison term and 30 lashes

Nine Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Factory workers have been sentenced to eight months of prison (suspended) and 30 lashes each by the 102nd Branch of the Shush Criminal Court, according to the state-run ILNA news agency.

The workers stood trial on August 14 for the “crime” of attending a one-hour protest on May 9, to demand their rights.

Other charges brought against the workers, according to the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Syndicate, is “holding illegal gatherings to demand a change of management and the release of Esmail Bakhshi” and “publishing messages on the internet”.

Seven of the complex’s workers were tried and sentenced to eight months suspended prison sentence and 30 lashes, according to the Haft Tappeh workers independent social media channel.

The Iranian Regime does not recognize workers’ rights to organize, even if they have months of unpaid wages and say that their basic demands have not been met. Over the past two years, Iranian workers have lost more than 57% of their purchasing power and can barely provide their basic needs.

In November 2018, Haft Tappeh factory workers held protests for over 20 days because they had not received their paychecks and the factory was privatised. The security forces arrested and tortured labour leaders and workers, with many activists, are still languishing in prison.

Workers have complained that they have become poorer while the managers have become richer, highlighting that the government is supporting the wealthy.

Jafar Azimzadeh, the leading member of the Free Union of Workers in Iran, described the condition as “slavery” while explaining the plight of workers who have not received their wages for months.

He said: “The families of some workers have to buy bread on credit, because of unpaid salaries and if this situation continues, even bakeries will refuse to sell bread to the workers on credit.”

Some workers have even, under an immense financial strain, died from suicide.

Ali Naghdi is the latest victim. His dead body was found floating in a canal on February 27 and its believed he died from suicide because of mounting debts after he was not paid.

Haft Tappeh workers have always been forced to fight for their wages, pensions and rights. In August 2018, 500 workers protested not being paid for three months, before being attacked by riot police with tear gas and beaten. Five workers were detained and charged with “disrupting order”, but later released.

At least 100 Haft Tappeh Sugarcane workers have been detained for demanding their rights.

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