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International Federation Condemns Death Penalty Threat Against Iran Truckers

Iran truck drivers on strike. File photo

The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) has condemned a reported call by the Islamic Rebulic's judiciary, including the head of Qazvin Judicial Department, for issuing the death penalty against 17 activists involved in a widespread truckers’ strike.

ITF has described the threats as "inhumane" and "unthinkable", calling for the International Labor Organization (ILO) to intervene.

The International Transport Workers' Federation is a global federation of transport workers' trade unions, founded in 1896. In 2017 the ITF had 677 member organizations in 149 countries.

In an ITF statement signed by its general secretary, Stephen Cotton, the Islamic Republic's authorities have been urged to listen to the truckers’ demands.

“The death penalty for striking is the most serious of violations of workers’ rights, it’s inhumane and unthinkable”, said ITF general secretary Stephen Cotton, adding, “From what we understand, Iran’s truckers took action as a last resort in the struggle to feed their families. The threat of the death penalty is utterly disproportionate."

In recent days, several judiciary officials, including the head of the judicial department of Qazvin, have threatened to sentence truckers to death after their new round of strike.

Announcing that seventeen of the truckers on strike have been so far arrested in the province, the acting Qazvin Prosecutor-General, Mohsen Karami, said on Wednesday, October 10, "We will demand the death sentence for the detainees, and if they are proven guilty of 'fighting against God', heavy sentences, such as execution, would be waiting for them."

“Fighting against God” is a serious crime in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Other judicial authorities have also accused the strikers of "aggression" and threatened them with the punishment set for brigands, i.e. death.

To back up their claims, the judicial authorities have published a series of footages, trying to prove the truckers attacked and damaged public and private property.

Nevertheless, the strikers have dismissed the clips as "fake" and "staging" evidence to pave the way for suppressing truck drivers who are merely demanding their rights.

Based on the latest reports, nearly 200 truckers have been arrested.

The strike is still going on and images of it in different cities of Iran were published on social media, on Saturday, October 13.

Basing cargo fees on ton per kilometer is one of the main demands of the strikers who are either truck owners or hired truckers.

Meanwhile, a news agency affiliated with the Islamic revolution Guards Corp's Baseej (Basij) militia force, Fars reported on Saturday that the Supreme Council of Transport Coordination has approved the demand.

However, the approval had been repeatedly promised before, but never materialized.

Iran’s truckers have seen their wages and standard of living decline steadily over the last two decades. Their job security has been under attack, thousands have had their pay delayed for months and all are suffering from extreme inflation, says ITF.

Since September 22, in an effort to raise awareness of their plight, almost half a million truck drivers have been participating in actions across 290 cities in 31 states. The truckers have also been urging their government to address their grievances over poverty-level earnings - and to be allowed to have a voice in decisions affecting their livelihoods.

Iranian truckers' strike has been supported by Italy's main trade unions, "No, to austerity measures" Front, as well as General Confederation of labor and the Union of Workers of Tehran and the Suburbs Bus Company (UWTSBC)

Furthermore, Iranian truck drivers who have gained international attention have also received support from the largest transportation workers’ union in North America.

“The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, representing 1.4 million transportation and supply chain workers in the United States and Canada, stands in solidarity with our Iranian brothers and sisters,” James P. Hoffa, the head of Teamsters union wrote in a letter to Abolfazl Mehrabadi, deputy director of the Iranian interest section at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C. on October 2.

“We urge the government of Iran to listen to the grievances of striking Iranian truck drivers, address their just demands and recognize their internationally recognized rights to assembly, speech, freedom of association and collective bargaining,” Hoffa added.