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Worker Sets Himself On Fire In Abadan

Iran - Abadan municipality

A service worker for the city of Abadan municipality has set himself on fire to protest living conditions, local labor sources reported.

State-run Iran Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported that in addition to financial distress, the worker, Zamen Azarbaijani, had been grappling with problems related to his work environment.

ILNA did not elaborate on the nature of the problems but reported that Azarbaijani, who set himself on fire on May 21, had suffered 80 percent burns.

A coworker who tried to save him suffered burns to 35 percent of his body.

Though ILNA published what it said was a photo of Azarbaijani on fire, the exact location of the incident has not been disclosed.

Abadan, a rich and prosperous modern city during the reign of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and the place of once the largest oil refineries in the world, lost its importance after the 1979 revolution and the devastating eight-year Iran-Iraq War.

The city, located in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan, home to most of Iranian Arabs, has been the scene of several labor protests.

Rights activists have reported several cases of Iranian Arabs committing suicide through self-immolation in Khuzestan in recent years. They have blamed the suicides on poverty and racial discrimination against minority Arabs, VOA reported.

In a similar incident on April 20 in the city of Robat Karim, southwest of the capital, Tehran, a sacked worker of the Farasoo factory set himself on fire at the plant’s compound and died two days later at a hospital in Tehran.

His fellow workers said their 26-year old colleague had been accused of stealing by the factory’s manager.

However, the workers insisted there was no decisive evidence against him.

Iranian workers’ tribulations have significantly increased in recent years. Many are underpaid or receive wages only after long delays. According to labor rights activists, Iranian workers are under heavy pressure that has forced them to go on strike or hold frequent protest assemblies that, in several occasions, have led to bloody clashes with security forces, usually supported by plainclothesmen.

Hardly a day passes in Iran without a protest rally in front of government offices across the country.

Through rallies and peaceful protest assemblies, Iranian workers are trying to attract the authorities’ attention to their problems, but their demands have fallen on deaf ears so far and the government prefers to suppress them with an iron-fist policy, labor rights activists insist.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also claimed on April 30, that the United States and a “stinking-rich” regional country, Saudi Arabia, are the behind recent labor protests in Iran.

Speaking at a session attended by entrepreneurs and workers to commemorate Labor Day, Khamenei maintained the “enemies have resorted to economic warfare” after realizing the “futility of military action against Iran.”