During raids on workers’ homes on Sunday night, police detained at least 30 men from the National Steel Industrial Group in Ahvaz who had been involved in a series of rallies and protest meetings over the past few weeks.
Iran’s Free Labor Union, a workers’ rights group banned by the Iranian Regime, has described the arrests as a “mark of infamy”.
The wrote on their social media accounts: “Instead of considering the demands of the oppressed and desperate workers, the entire government apparatus raided their homes in the middle of the night, terrorized their wives and children, and arrested the breadwinners. All those who 40 years ago took the destiny of our people in their own hands by claiming to be on the side of the downtrodden now shamelessly raid the homes of workers and put them in chains.”
These arrests also gained the attention of the Iranian Parliament, with Alireza Mahjoub, head of Parliament’s labour faction, calling on the mullahs to intervene to free the arrested workers.
He said: “This is a violation of the constitution.”
Over 4,000 workers at the National Steel Industrial Group stopped work on November 9 to demand the payment of their delayed wages and benefits, better working conditions, and, following the arrests of their comrades, the immediate and unconditional release of workers’ rights activists.
The steelworkers strike in Ahvaz began shortly after another strike by workers at the Haft Tapeh sugarcane factory in nearby Shush. Protesters are demanding the payment of wage arrears and accusing the new private owners of criminal activity.
Several key sectors in Iran have been hit by strikes over working conditions in 2018, including education, mines, and transport. Notably, these strikes have mainly been occurring outside of Tehran, indicating that it not just urbanites that want change in Iran, but also those widely considered part of the Regime’s base.
In November, judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani gave an ominous threat to striking workers, saying that they should be careful not to allow their demands to become “an instrument for the enemy”. This is thought to be a reference to the Iranian Resistance, who have been responsible for aiding in the organisation of these protests and making them more effective against the Iranian Regime.
Of course, Larijani fails to accept that the workers’ strike could be ended if only the Regime would meet their legitimate demands. As the Regime will not do this, the only option is regime change.