Iran’s Free Labor Union (FLU) reported on Tuesday that security forces arrested ten more steel factory workers in Ahvaz, bringing the total number to 41 detainees.
On Monday, at least 29 workers were arrested, mostly at their homes during raids after midnight. On Tuesday, the raids continued in a more violent manner, dragging workers out of their homes, according to FLU.
The 31 workers arrested on Monday have been taken to Sheyban prison in Ahvaz, capital of the oil-rich Khuzestan province.
Reports received from Ahvaz indicate that many workers spend their nights in the streets to avoid being arrested in raids on their homes.
The new arrests took place despite ILNA reporting that “Bagheri, the IRGC operations chief in Ahvaz on Monday told protesting workers to be calm, as their comrades arrested earlier will be released by the end of the day”. This did not happen and on Tuesday ten more people were detained.
The presence of a Revolutionary Guard senior officer at a labor protest and his attempt to engage with the workers could mean that IRGC is responsible for the arrests.
The steel factory in question has witnessed labor strikes and protests for the past two months. Workers are demanding their unpaid wages, resumption of production at the factory, guarantee of social insurance and “attention to living conditions of the workers”.
The steel factory is owned by Bank Melli, one of the largest financial institutions in Iran. All major banks in turn are government owned and operated.
Some labor leaders had threatened that if Bank Melli does not act on its obligations, they will appeal to workers and the people of the province to withdraw their savings from the bank.
Other workers have threatened that if their demands are not met, they will take their protests to Iran’s capital, Tehran.
On Monday, the U.S. State Department condemned the initial arrests in Ahvaz. Robert Palladino deputy spokesperson tweeted about the arrests and added, “Sadly, this is how the regime has always mistreated the Iranian people. The U.S. supports their rightful demands. Iranians deserve to live in peace and dignity.”
Retirees also held a protest in Tehran on Tuesday, chanting slogans in demanding freedom for detained steel workers, teachers and others.
Labor unrest in the province has intermittently flared up since last December. Another major industrial complex, the sugar mill in Shush has also been on strike and large protests for weeks. Lately, some of their demands have been met and the situation is now relatively quiet.