Iranian police have arrested “dozens of steel workers” in Ahwaz during Monday night and Tuesday June 12.
The Independent Union of Iranian Workers reported on its website that about 50 workers of the National Steel Group were arrested at Kian Pars Square in Ahvaz during a Monday night gathering in which workers demanded three months of their unpaid wages.
At least another 15 steel workers were also arrested by a police special unit during a protest gathering in front of the Khouzestan Province governor’s office on Tuesday.
The labor union has released the names of 32 of the detained workers, adding that “in a brutal insult on the working class,” the detainees are imprisoned at a camp set up to for drug addicts.
Steel workers staged another demonstration in front of the local governor’s office, demanding the release of their co-workers.
Videos released on social media show steel workers chanting slogans calling on the government to free jailed steel workers.
In the meantime, according to the labor union, at least eight of the jailed workers have been released from jail and officials have promised to free other imprisoned workers, except several workers who were allegedly involved in an attack on the offices of three Ahvaz MPs on June 11.
The steel workers told officials “If anyone should remain in jail, all of us want to be there as all of us took part in the protests.,” the labor union’s website reported.
Calls by the authorities for workers to post bail to free those detained have gone unanswered. One deadline was set for Wednesday at 3:00 pm local time and there are no reports of any progress.
Ahvaz National Steel Industrial Group, a lucrative complex established in 1967 during the Shah’s reign, has recently witnessed widespread protests over wage arrears among its nearly 4,000-strong workforce.
The steel complex was nationalized after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and later sold in a murky transaction to Amir Mansour Aria, aka Mahafarid Amir Khosravi, who was executed in 2011 on charges of embezzling nearly $1 billion.
The company was then transferred by the court to the National Bank of Iran, and in October 2017, the bank sold the complex to Abdolreza Mousavi, who also owns a major soccer club in Ahvaz and two hotels on Kish Island in the Persian Gulf, and is the managing director of Zargos Airlines.
The factory soon became idle under the new owner and stopped paying salaries, which led to noisy protests. Workers complained that the Mousavi was not interested in running the steel works and alleged that equipment was being removed from the complex.
The authorities announced in May that ownership was again transferred to the National Bank, but workers now say that Mousavi still shows up at the complex and it is not clear who is the owner.
Meanwhile, protests have continued periodically in the last few months.
Another video released on social media shows a worker protesting “unfair laws that send workers to jail and let the steel plant managers get away with their poor performance without being accountable to anyone.”
According to ILNA, 4,000, steel workers of the National Steel Group have been complaining for months about ambiguities regarding the factory’s ownership while also protesting about the situation of their unpaid wages and social security premiums