In comments carried yesterday by the ILNA state-run news agency, the Khuzestan Governor’s Political and Social Deputy implied that striking Ahvaz steelworkers violated the law by carrying out strike action and that the arrest of the more than 40 workers was the natural consequence of their actions.
Yesterday, more than 40 workers of the Iran National Steel Company were detained in Ahvaz. The workers have been on strike, protesting their unpaid wages and the privatization of the company for more than a month.
“I stress that if workers and employees have requests and demands, they should express it in the framework of the law”, Hosseinzadeh said.
“When actions are carried out outside of the law, the security apparatus deals with it according to the law and its duty, therefore it is expected that the dear (workers) use legal methods,” he added.
“When actions that are against the law take place, the order and security of the city is disrupted therefore the security apparatus has to enter the scene and act according to the law”, the deputy governor said.
A video circulating on social media yesterday showed Ahvaz steelworkers interrupting the speech of a provincial official with loud chants of “detained workers must be released,” during a visit by Khuzestan officials at the Iran National Steel Group factory.
Khuzestan officials, including Ahvaz’a representative in Iran’s Parliament have claimed that the workers would soon be released.
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.
The Iran National Steel Industrial Group, a lucrative complex established in 1967 during the Shah’s reign, has an almost 4,000-strong workforce.
The steel complex was nationalized after the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and later sold in a questionable transaction to Amir Mansour Aria, aka Mahafarid Amir Khosravi, who was executed in 2011 on charges of embezzling nearly $1 billion.
The company was then transferred by the court to the National Bank of Iran, and in October 2017, the bank sold the complex to Abdolreza Mousavi, the owner of a major soccer club in Ahvaz and two hotels in Kish Island in the Persian Gulf. Mousavi is also the managing director of Zagros Airlines.
The factory soon became idle under the new owner and stopped paying its workers’ salaries, which led to numerous protests.Workers complained that Mousavi did not intend to keep the factory running, and alleged that equipment was being removed from the complex.
The authorities announced in May that the ownership was once again transferred to the National Bank, but the Ahvaz steel factory workers said that Mousavi still showed up at the complex and that it wasn’t clear who the owner was.