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The demand of “Bread, Work and Freedom” is in prison in Iran!
نوشته شده توسط سیاوش شهابی در Saturday 14 September 2019

creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, lashes and imprisonment against workers who are deprived of their daily bread is not going to work. Those who are playing with fire must know, these lashes are against the wretched bodies of all workers.” Haft Tapeh workers wrote on their Telegram account.

The inhumane and theatrical court sentences against imprisoned workers and their allies is the latest episode of an escalating war waged by the Iranian state against struggling workers at Haft Tapeh and across the country.

Haft Tapeh as the locus of progressive labor struggle in Iran

Located in the North of the Khuzestan province, Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Factory is the oldest sugar cane factory in the country which was established during the Pahlavi regime in the 1960’s. Close to 4000 workers are employed at the factory based on official as well as unofficial contracts. An additional 1500 members of the staff are day labourers, mostly from the indigenous Arab communities. In 2015, it was announced that the factory was bankrupt and in 2016, two private contracting companies, namely Zeus and Ariak, bought all of the company shares. In this regard, Khuzestan Vice President of Agricultural Associations and Guild System, Hakim Khenefari, emphasized that the only way to save the factory is to sell it to the private sector. However, two years into privatization, the factory and its workers have been witnessing worsening conditions. Soon after, the CEO of Haft Tappeh factory who was under suspicion for embezzlement fled Iran to Canada.

Haft Tapeh Workers, along with steel workers of Ahwaz, responded to this permanent state of austerity and corruption with the establishment of independent worker councils through free grassroots elections in order to fight for the collective rights of the workers. Their main demands are the payment of years worth of arrears and the return of the factory ownership to the workers council. The workers have announced that they are more than capable of administering the factory based on their own skills and expertise.

Esmail Bakhshi is elected as the representative of Haft Tappeh’s independent union. He gained popularity among workers of Haft Tappeh due to his genuine honesty, care and dedication for the improvement of the catastrophic condition of Haft Tapeh workers. He led several general strikes and mass rallies which put the struggle of Haft Tapeh and their demands at the center of national debates. On the 14th day of Haft Tappeh’s general strike Esmail Bakhshi, Mohsen Armand and journalist Sepideh Gholian were arrested. Days later, reports emerged of severe beating and torture of Bakhshi in prison.

Theater of bogus sentences based on torture and forced confession

The recent bogus charges are as follows:

Esmail Bakhshi has been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment and 74 lashes for “collaboration with hostile organisations”, “publishing of face news” and “conspiracy against national security”.

Sepideh Gholian has been sentenced to 18 years imprisonment for “gatherings and collusion against national security” , “ membership at Gam organization” , “propaganda against the state”, “publishing of fake news”.

Gam magazine editorial team Amir Amir Gholi, Amir Hossein Mohammad Fard and Sanaz Allah Yari and Asal Mohamadi have also been sentenced to 18 years of imprisonment. The charged against Bakhshi and Gholiyan are based on forced confessions extracted through torture. Immediately after their release on bail in 2018, both Esmail Bakhshi and Sepideh Gholian announced that all forced confessions have been extracted through torture, threats and intimation. But few weeks later, a propaganda short film titled “The exposed plot” was televised nationwide and framed Bkahshi, Gholian and the broader Haft Tappeh movement as a “foreign plot against the state”. The dehumanizing propaganda efforts by the state only resulted in further support by the mobilized the arrested workers and also resulted in a media campaign against forced confessions.

The testimonies of Bakhshi and Gholian regarding torture and ill-treatment in prison was ignored and denied by the authorities. However, just recently it has been revealed that the 13 suspects of the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists in 2012 who appeared on national TV and admitting the charges were in fact tortured and forced to confess. After an interview with one of the victims by BBC, The government’s spokesperson and the intelligence minister of Iran eventually confirmed the allegations, while not only denied the same case for Bakhshi and Gholian, but also prosecuted them for roorback and dissemination of defamatory falsehood against the government.

National security”: Pretext for intensified domestic oppression

These sentences are being carried out by Islamic Republic’s “revolutionary” court in the name of “national security”, while the peaceful protest carried out by the Iranian workers is expressly asserted and guaranteed under Article 27 of the Constitution1. Workers are being framed as “enemies of the state” or a “national threat” merely for demanding their unpaid salaries and their basic rights. But by carrying these sentences, the Iranian state is merely revealing its own anti-worker and anti-poor core characteristics. Since its inception in 1979, the counter-revolutionary state has been portraying itself as “the defender of nation’s poor” wearing a populist mask while mass executing or sending into exile all socialist, communist and anti-imperialist community groups, the very groups whose efforts were central to the fall of the Pahlavi regime. The counter-revolutionary state saw the process of political cleansing and mass violence as a necessary step for establishing itself as the sole legitimate authority in the country. But the workers-led popular labor movement in Haft Tappeh and across Iran has successfully shattered Iranian state’s hypocritical masks and has been revealing its true nature.

War and Nuclear Deal as deliberate distractions

As mentioned above, the systemic mass arrest and intimation of workers, unionists and leftist students is taking place at a time when domestic and international media are obsessively focused on the nuclear negotiations. Historically one of the most important propaganda tactics used by the Iranian state has been the externalization of the internal crisis. This deliberate tactic was also used during the Iran-Iraq war when dissident voices were crushed in the name of “defending the nation against enemies”. The tactic has proven to be effective in diverting attention away from the country’s catastrophic economic, social and political conditions and towards “the enemy abroad” or framing dissident voices as “foreign agents”. Since the beginning of the nuclear fiasco the Iranian state has been successful at framing the unjust US led economic sanctions as the sole reason for country’s crumbling economic conditions. While there is no doubt that the US sanctions have indeed worsened Iran’s economic conditions, but to blame the entire issue on external factors and erasing Iranian state’s accountability is a shameful, opportunistic and deceptive attempt at hiding the truth. Several of the popular slogans which emerged during the 2018 nationwide protests were a direct response to such propaganda tactics. Frustrated and helpless protestors screamed “they lie! Our enemy is right here not abroad!” as they marched in cities and towns across the country. “Leave Syria alone! Do something about our situation at home!” Foolad factory’s steel workers screamed as they marched in the streets of Ahwaz during their historic 2018 general strike. The slogan was repeated in Kermanshah, Tehran and Kazeron among other places. Such slogans debunked different aspects of Iranian state’s propaganda apparatus and illustrated the fact that poor and struggling masses are aware of the truth behind the country’s economic crisis.

No to external and internal wars against the people!

As the world is focused on nuclear negotiations between the Iranian and American regimes, Iran’s new labor movement is struggling to make its voice heard internationally. The Iranian state has indeed waged a war against this fragile but resilient popular movement in the name “national security”. It is long past overdue time for radical, internationalist and anti-imperialist socialists, communists, anarchists, feminists and all progressive forces around the world to raise their voice and stand in solidarity with Iran’s rising workers!

Attacks against one are attacks against all! Victory for one struggle is victory for all struggles!

LONG LIVE THE INTERNATIONAL CLASS STRUGGLE

LONG LIVE WORKERS COUNCIL

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1 Article 27: Public gatherings and marches are allowed so long as the participants do not carry arms and are not in violation of the fundamental principles of Islam