A relative of a Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Factory labor activist said that he was severely tortured in detention and was now suffering from severe physical and psychological problems.
The relative, who asked not to be named in fear of repercussion, told freelance reporter Shahed Alavi in a phone interview that Esmail Bakhshi was threatened before his release not to participate in any labor activities and was banned from publishing pictures of himself online.
“Esmail was treated in the worst possible way in prison”, the relative said in the audio file in a voice that was changed in fear of identification.
The outspoken Haft Tappeh labor representative is known for his passionate speeches during the workers’ weeks long strike action.
He was detained on November 18 on the 14th day of the sugarcane workers’ strike and was released on December 12 on bail. Since his release, he has been absent from workers strikes and other labor activities.
“He was beaten until he was on the verge of death,” the source said adding that some of his ribs were also probably broken.
“He was numerously hit with a baton in his reproductive organs and has trouble walking, sitting and sleeping now,” he added.
There were previous reports that Esmail Bakhshi was tortured in prison and transferred to hospital, though the reports were denied by officials of the southern province of Khuzestan, where Esmail resides.
“Every time he passed out and then regained consciousness from pain, they gave him hallucinogen drugs and told him they were sedatives,” the relative said.
Esmail’s relative said that he was still suffering from the side effects of the drugs.
“Sometimes, he still has hallucinations and thinks that he’s still in prison. He becomes afraid and is suffering from psychological problems,” he said adding that he was also suffering from constant fever.
“He is not under house arrest but upon his release he was told that he had been fired from the sugarcane factory. He was threatened that if he or his family talks about his condition with anyone or if he continues protesting like before, he will be arrested again,” he added.
After his arrest, Iranian workers, especially in Khuzestan along with students protested his detention and chanted, “They got Esmail, we are all Bakhshi,” and demanded his release.
“Those who were in contact with Esmail before his arrest, as a colleague or partner in labor activities, were warned that if they visit Mr. Bakhshi they would also be arrested and immediately fired from work,” the labor activist’s family member said.
The source said that Esmail Bakhshi’s bank account was also blocked and one of his main problems was that he could not afford much needed medical treatment.
The Haft Tappeh labor activist has even been banned from contacting his lawyer Farzaneh Zilabi after his release.
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.