While dozens of Iranian labor activists are behind bars for demanding better pay and overdue wages, the head of the Islamic Republic Judiciary says, "some have hidden agendas under the cover of labor protests."
Speaking to several members of Majles (Iranian parliament), the mid-ranking cleric, Ebrahim Raeesi noted, "Workers' apprehension is understandable, and the responsible departments should address their problems, but some have hidden agendas under the cover of labor-related issues. We should not hold all workers accountable for such actions."
Raeesi also asserted that genuine labor protests should be appreciated, and it was up to workers to confront those who "contaminate" the atmosphere of labor protests.
The chief of Iran’s all-powerful and hardliner Judiciary made the comments even though the Islamic Republic laws do not recognize the workers right to protest or strikes.
Furthermore, Islamic Republic laws prohibit workers from establishing independent trade unions.
As recently as during the last international Labor Day events, May 1, security forces detained dozens of workers and civil rights activists who were attending a rally to mark the occasion.
The detainees were later sentenced to long prison terms, based on ambiguous charges and without due process.
A young reporter working for pro-reform daily Sharq, Marzieh Amiri has been sentenced to ten years and 148 lashes
Intelligence agents arrested Ms. Amiri while she was covering a workers’ gathering, celebrating Labor Day.
The Islamic Republic judiciary has also sentenced labor rights activist, Ms. Nasrin Javadi, to seven years, banning her from using a cellphone or being a member of political and social groups and parties.
In the meantime, in a letter to the Islamic Republic Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, eighty international labor unions recently called for immediate and unconditional release of all workers' rights activists, including employees of the Haft Tapeh Sugar Cane industrial complex in southwest Iran, who had been protesting privatization of the complex, hardship and overdue wages for months.
Many privatization deals in the Islamic republic are murky affairs when insiders acquire state-owned businesses at a fraction of the real price. In addition, they usually borrow large sums of money from government banks to keep an enterprise afloat, but instead either they pocket the money or stop paying tax and other bills and drive the business to the ground. As a result, it is the workers who don't get paid or lose their jobs.
Retaliating against the protests, the judiciary officials have repeatedly threatened labor rights activists, in some cases even with the death penalty.