IRAN AND TRADE UNION RIGHTS
WHEREAS, in 2009, the world saw the vicious face of the Ahmadinejad regime in Iran as it violently attacked and terrorized Iranians who protested the rigged national elections. Gangs of government thugs threatened and beat Iranian citizens who went to the streets of major cities around the country to peacefully demand the end to the dictatorship and the restoration of democracy. Peaceful demonstrators were attacked, some killed. Many were arrested and held without charges and beaten in jail. This is only one example of the repression and brutality of the Iranian regime that has been going on for years; and
WHEREAS, Iranian workers and democratic union activists have long been a high-profile target of government repression. While the Iranian labor movement was one of the earliest and strongest in the Middle East, today workers do not have the right to organize independently or to negotiate collective bargaining agreements freely. Although Iran is a member of the International Labor Organization, it has not yet ratified the ILO Conventions guaranteeing freedom of association, the right to organize and the right to collective bargaining; and
WHEREAS, in May 2010, the world press reported the shocking death of well-known Iranian teacher and civil rights activist Farzad Kamangar, in yet another example of state brutality. Mr. Kamangar was summarily executed, by hanging, along with four other political prisoners. Mr. Kamangar's four years in prison included physical beatings during interrogation and detention, and his trial was marked by numerous legal irregularities. He was kept isolated, separated from legal counsel and denied desperately needed medical treatment; and
WHEREAS, Farzad Kamangar was a local leader in the Iranian network of teachers associations, a network, the Coordinating Council, growing in number and voice, and recently accepted for membership in Education International; and
WHEREAS, trade unionists continue to be prominent targets of government harassment. There have been an alarming number of union leaders and activists who have been subjected to intimidation, violence and imprisonment. Among them:
- Labor leader Mansur Osanloo, head of the Syndicate of Bus Drivers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, who was sent to the infamous Evin Prison, despite suffering from numerous health problems. A widely known labor activist, Osanloo was convicted of "acting against national security." Despite winning the support from many international human rights organizations, he remains imprisoned and his fellow union workers remain targets of state-sponsored harassment; and
- Labor activist Mahmoud Salehi, former head of the Saqqez Bakery Workers' Union, who spent one year in prison for "acting against national security"; and
- Forty-five members of the Hamedan Teachers' Association, who were arrested, and nine who were sentenced, for "affiliation with a banned organization" and "participating in unlawful strikes." Three prominent teacher union leaders still remain in Iran's most notorious political prisons. Hundreds of other teachers around the country have been harassed, suffered pay cuts, been suspended from work, forced to retire or dismissed outright.
- Pro-union journalist Ali Reza Saghafi, internationally known for commentaries on trade union rights and who is also the chairman of the Centre for Defending Workers' Rights. After reporting to judicial authorities in Tehran, he then disappeared. He was eventually released from prison, charges never made; and
- Four labor activists from Sanandaj, two of them women, who were sentenced to flogging, up to 70 lashes, followed by prison sentences up to six months:
RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers:
- support the call by labor and international human rights organizations for an immediate end to politically motivated violence, imprisonment and execution in Iran and acknowledge the bravery of millions of Iranians, who despite intimidation, courageously fight for justice and equity in their cities, towns and communities; and
- call for international condemnation and protest against the completely unwarranted brutality against Iran's trade union movement, and speak forcefully to pressure Iran to respect internationally recognized workers' rights and work with Education International, Public Services International, international trade unions and local Iranian civil society organizations—despite the difficulties and the dangers—in finding ways to extend solidarity to teachers and other trade unionists in Iran, including protesting the unjust execution of teacher Farzad Kamangar.