Iran cracks down on striking workers in Ahvaz

A number of arrests have been made as a result of protests over work-related offenses.
Wednesday 19/12/2018
Iranian judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani (L) and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani during a meeting in Tehran on July 14, 2018. (AFP)
Iranian judiciary chief Sadegh Larijani (L) and Iranian president Hassan Rouhani during a meeting in Tehran on July 14, 2018. (AFP)

LONDON – Many striking workers in Ahvaz have been arrested after weeks of protests at a steel plant in the southwestern Iranian city, sources in Tehran said.

"A number of workers of the National Steel Group who had work-related complaints were arrested two days ago," Alireza Mahjoub, head of parliament's labour faction, said in a speech to lawmakers.

There was no mention of how many were arrested.

"This is a violation of the constitution," he added, calling on parliament to intervene to free the arrested workers.

Staff at the National Steel Industrial Group in Ahvaz in Khuzestan province have been on strike since November 9 over unpaid wages and benefits, said labour-focused news agency ILNA.

The Ahvaz protests started shortly after a strike by workers at the Haft Tapeh sugar factory in nearby Shush over wage arrears and alleged criminal activity by new private owners.

The strike at Haft Tapeh, which employs around 4,000 workers, ended after the workers received their wages.

Iran has been hit by strikes over working conditions in several key sectors this year, including education, mines, transport and the steel industry, mainly outside Tehran.

Ahvaz has been the scene of recurrent protests by workers unhappy about their conditions and the country's policies.

According to news reports, demonstrators protested against the country's rulers describing them as "the House of Thieves – Unique in the whole world." Chants rang out, repeating, "Our enemy is right here – They lie saying it’s America."

They also assailed the clergy ruling the country, saying, "You have used Islam as a ladder to trample on the people."

In November the head of Iran's judiciary warned restive workers against creating "disorder."

"Workers should not allow their demands to become an excuse and an instrument for the enemy," Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani said, quoted by the judiciary's news agency Mizan Online.