The families of detained Iran National Steel Group workers gathered outside the Khuzestan Governor’s office demanding the release of the detained Ahvaz steelworkers. A number of steelworkers were also among the protesters.
The protesters, many children, held placards that read, “Father, I’m waiting for you”, “Free my father”, “Detained worker must be released”, “Worker is detained, thief is free”, and “workers have economic demands”.
Security forces arrested more than 40 steelworkers in the southern city of Ahvaz on December 16 and 17 in midnight raids. Reports indicate that a number of workers were released but 26 are still in detention.
Ahvaz steelworkers published a statement announcing that all the workers stood with the families and children of detained workers and demanded their release.
The statement said that top provincial and judicial officials broke their promises about releasing all the workers and intended to “deceive the public”.
Before the arrests, the Ahvaz steelworkers held 38 days of strike action, marching on Ahvaz streets and chanting against officials.
They were protesting their unpaid wages and the Meli Bank’s control of the factory while demanding the launch of five more production lines.
There are fears that the detained laborers are mistreated in prison as the Iranian regime regularly beats and tortures prisoners.
A recent report said that labor activist Esmail Bakhshi, who was recently released from prison, was severely tortured while being fed hallucinogen drugs in prison.
Esmail Bakhshi represents the workers of the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane factory in Shush, another city in the southern province of Khuzestan.
According to a report published today by human rights sources, another detained Haft Tappeh labor activist was transferred to Shush Prison.
The report said that since his arrest on November 29, Ali Nejati has not had any family visits and was only allowed a few short phone calls with his family.
His lawyer Farzaneh Zilabi also recently said that her client was sentenced to disrupting public order for “leading the Haft Tappeh sugarcane workers’ strike action and their gatherings.”
Mr. Nejati is suffering from numerous kidney and heart conditions. He was transferred to the hospital on December 14 but was quickly returned to the security section of Dezful Prison.
Iran’s Labor Code does not grant citizens the right to form independent unions, despite Iran’s ratification of the UN’s International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and membership in the International Labor Organization.
Workers are regularly threatened, detained, tortured and even sentenced to flogging, despite their legitimate demands and protests to current conditions which has robbed them of more than 80% of their purchasing power.