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Ahvaz Workers Continue Protests, Calling Rulers 'Thieves'

Families of steelworkers demonstrating in the city of Ahvaz in protest to the economic situation and solidarity with workers, on Tuesday, December 04, 2018. Photo issued by labor activists.

Iran National Steel Industrial Group (INSIG) workers poured into the streets of Ahvaz on Monday and Tuesday protesting overdue wages, hardship and mismanagement of the complex.

On Monday, the 24th consecutive day of protests, the frustrated workers assembled outside public buildings and the office of the city's Friday Prayer Leader, Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Mousavi.

Latest reports say that the workers continued their protests also on Tuesday, marching on government buildings and chanting anti-regime slogan. There was also a march in the city by families of the workers in solidarity with their demands.

Footages circulated on social media from Monday, show angry workers chanting rancorous slogans against the Islamic ruling establishment.

Referring to president Hassan Rouhani's logo (a key) during his presidential election, the enraged protesters directly addressed him, chanting, "The lying locksmith, where is your key to prudence?"

The Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was also the target of bitter slogans in rhymed Persian, "Neither the ruler, nor the government - None care about the nation". Rouhani has presented his administration as “the government of prudence”.

The disgruntled workers, who have taken their protest rallies out of INSIG's compound to the streets of Ahvaz, the capital city of the oil-rich Khuzestan province for eighteen days, described the country as "The House of Thieves - Unique in the whole world", insisting that "Our enemy is right here -They lie saying it’s America".

Workers chanting "Our enemy is right here -They lie saying it’s America".

The clergy who are dominating Iran for nearly four decades, were also the target of fiery slogans, "You have used Islam as a ladder to trample on the people".

INSIG workers assert that they want their complex production line restored and overdue wages paid.

Earlier, the government officials had promised that the wages would be paid by November 30, but a representative of the protesters, Morteza Akbarian, reiterated that the promise had not been kept.

Footages circulated on social media show Akbarian delivering a speech at the rally, saying, "The government is lying by reporting that it has paid two-three months of the overdue wages".

Furthermore, Akbarian accused the government of ignoring the protesters' demand for restoring INSIG's production line.

INSIG, based on a steel mill founded in 1963 during Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi’s reign, was privatized in 2016, leading to repeated demonstrations by workers protesting “unacceptable” work conditions under the new management.

The discontented workers of INSIG started a new round of strikes nine days ago. On the eighth day of the strike, protesters chanted slogans to relay their dissatisfaction, including, “Today is the day of mourning, labor is hosting a funeral,” “No nation has ever seen such injustice,” as well as sarcastically shouting, “Down with labor. Hail to the tyrant.”

The industrial group has nearly 4,000 employees who have not been paid for at least three months.

The owner of INSIG, Iranian tycoon Abdol Reza Mousavi, has accused his employees of being “provoked by malicious elements” outside the industrial complex.

Scores of industrial groups and factories across Iran are currently experiencing strikes and protests.

Nonetheless, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has repeatedly maintained that the recent widespread labor protests across Iran are designed by "foreign enemies".

“One of the major activities of our enemies has been to create a recession and obstacles in our factories and among labor groups -- particularly the big ones -- so they can provoke the workers,” Khamenei said in one of his shortest speeches ever, addressing the Congress Of 14,000 Martyred Laborers February 5.

The “enemy,” as a rule, is a term used by Iranian authorities to describe the United States or Israel.

Currently, thousands of workers across the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, including at Abadan's refinery (once one of the largest oil refinery in the world), Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane plant in Shush (ancient Susa), Ahvaz Metro project, and the employees of the municipality in Hamidiyeh are on strike.