by Hassan Mahmoudi
Half of Iran’s population on the verge of explosion…
On May 1st, International Workers’ Day, workers, and retirees held protest rallies in more than 20 cities in Iran, including Tehran, Karaj, Arak, Mashhad, Khorramabad, Marivan, Kermanshah, Haft Tappeh, Tabriz, Sanandaj, Rasht, Boroujerd, Qazvin, Sari, Ilam, … to commemorate International Workers’ Day and to pursue their rights.
Workers are celebrating International Workers’ Day in a situation where, according to government statistics, which is far from the truth, six million people partially and 1.5 million permanently lost their jobs during the coronavirus crisis up to October 2020. And between the fall of 2019 and the fall of 2020, more than one million women were fired from the labor market.
Today, Iranian workers have become one of the cheapest labor forces in the world. The wage set by the tripartite committee is 2.655 million tomans (171 US dollars) and with the approval of this meager minimum wage, a large segment of the Iranian working community will live below the poverty line in this year.
This year’s comparative wage is the lowest in the past 30 years. In comparison it is 1/3rd of 2016 and 1/5th of 2010.
According to the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), over the past 42 years, the regime has suppressed any attempt to form independent trade unions and organizations by establishing anti-labor institutions such as the Islamic Labor Councils, as well as arresting and expelling workers.
Government corruption, poverty and unemployment, economic pressures from the coronavirus pandemic, job insecurity, layoffs and detention of workers have put the 17 million workers’ community (with their families into 40 million, half of Iran’s population) on the verge of explosion. Like a barrel of gunpowder ready to ignite by any spark. The regime is deeply afraid of any kind of protest that could start a nationwide uprising, that is why security forces and police prevented any large gathering of protesters today. IRGC counterinsurgency forces and security forces, police and Basij forces surrounded and controlled the gatherings. But the workers and various other strata did not give up and tried to linkup to the nationwide protest by staging protests and strikes.
According to NCRI, the main opposition of the Iranian regime:
The regime tried to prevent the formation and continuation of the gathering by deploying security and intelligence forces and plainclothes, or to disperse protesters. In Tehran, buses and caged trucks were brought to the scene to arrest and transport protesters. However, the workers and toilers continued to gather and protest, ignoring the regime’s arrangements, and in some places clashed with the repressive forces. In capital Tehran, security forces and IRGC have assaulted and beaten the protesters. IRGC has arrested more than 20 protesters up to now.
At today’s rallies, workers and others chanted the following slogans:
– The enemy of the workers, the government of the looters!
– We will not give up until we gain our rights!
– We shall not vote anymore since we just heard lies!
– Our enemy is here, they are lying, to say it is America!
– Political prisoners must be freed!
– The imprisoned workers must be freed!
– The worker is awake and detests the dictator!
– Death to the oppressor; Viva the worker!
In recent years, the Iranian regime has detained workers and sentenced them to humiliating punishment contrary to human rights, such as flogging.
According to human rights organizations, at least 37 workers and labor activists have been arrested over the past year for reasons related to workers’ rallies.
Haft Tappeh sugarcane company workers in Susa in their statement for International Workers ‘Day by referring to poverty and economic pressure on workers and “non-receipt of arrears” wrote: “Workers will continue to fight for their demands.”
The statement continued: “We paid the price for seeking justice and our rights by incurring high costs of getting fired, imprisoned and faced numerous lawsuits. However, today we are more united, today we know what we do not want and what we want. We are now at a juncture when our protest, unity and painstaking troubles will start to pay off.”
Hassan Mahmoudi is a social analyst, researcher, independent observer, and commentator of Middle Eastern and Iranian Politics. He tweets under @hassan_mahmou1.