Iran: Support needed to free unjustly imprisoned trade unionists

Together with the International Transport Workers' Federation, Education International has launched a LabourStart global solidarity campaign to seek the immediate and unconditional release of jailed trade unionists Reza Shahabi and Esmail Abdi.

Education International (EI) and the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) are particularly concerned about the fate of two Iranian trade unionists. Reza Shahabi and Esmail Abdi have been detained because of their defence of workers’ concerns and their trade union rights and civil liberties are being denied. A petition to the Iranian authorities can be signed here.

Reza Shahabi

Reza Shahabi, treasurer of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, was on medical leave of absence after suffering severe ill treatment while detained at the Rajaee Shahr Prison. Denied an extension to his medical leave, he is now back in prison. His detention was extended by an additional 968 days as a result of his absence from prison for medical leave. On 9 August, Shahabi joined a hunger strike to protest against the inhumane detention conditions in Iranian prisons.

Esmail Abdi

Esmail Abdi, a leader of the Tehran Teacher Trade Association, was serving a six-year jail term on bogus charges. He was transferred to hospital on 3 June after 38 days of hunger strike in protest at the continued repression of teachers and the lack of judicial independence in Iran. He was returned to Evin Prison two days later. Abdi was briefly released on bail on 25 June, only to be rearrested on 27 July. This followed the arrest a few days earlier of 15 members of the Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Workers’ Syndicate, in a renewed government repression of trade unionists.

Global call

The global union federations, EI and ITF, urge the Iranian authorities to take all necessary measures for the immediate and unconditional release of Shahabi, Abdi, and other trade unionists detained for their activities in defence of the interests of workers.

There is considerable concern about the harsh detention conditions imposed on the unionists and fear for their safety and wellbeing. Both EI and ITF hold the Iranian government responsible and accountable for any worsening of their situation.

EI: Iran’s government must respect union rights

Education International will continue to closely monitor the trade union situation in Iran and demands that the Iranian government lifts all sanctions against trade unionists for their legitimate trade union activities. It also urges the government to respect fundamental human and trade unions rights for all workers and public servants.

EI invites its member organisations and individuals to act now by:

•             Encouraging individual members/other individuals to petition the authorities through the LabourStart appeal;

•             Contacting their Government and the diplomatic representation of Iran in their country, requesting that they begin a dialogue on these issues with the Iranian authorities;

•             Giving visibility to the LabourStart petition by recommending it to colleagues, union members and networks; posting it on their website, on Facebook and on Twitter.

You can petition the Iranian authorities here through the LabourStart appeal.

EI letter to Iran’s president

Education International has already sent a letter to His Excellency, Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Dated 21 August, the letter from EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen demands the immediate and unconditional release of Shahabi, Abdi and other imprisoned trade unionists. And it denounces the public authorities’ decision to deny medical leave to Shahabi. 

He reminds the President that, in June 2017, the International Labour Organisation’s Committee on Freedom of Association (CFA) called on the Iranian government to lift the sentence against Shahabi and requested that he should not spend any more time in prison. In addition, the CFA called for an independent investigation into the ill-treatment of Reza Shahabi. 

Firmly condemning the Iranian government's failure to heed the recommendations of the CFA and to release Shahabi, the EI leader also expressed concerns about the health of Shahabi and other imprisoned activists, including Abdi.

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