Nabz News Review - February 10, 2014

LABOR RIGHTS

Over the past few years, the Iranian media has been inundated with news of protesting workers struggling to provide for their families as their salaries and overtime wages are being withheld. And with high food prices and rising inflation rate, thousands of workers have once again taken to the streets in Iran to demand their pay. For months, more than 3,000 workers from the Chadormalu Mine in the central province of Yazd have been demanding in protest an increase in pay compatible with the inflation rate, as well as their overtime pay for the past four months, and on January 29, security forces arrested over 20 of the workers on strike. Prominent labor unionist Mansour Osanloo told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, “According to the Iranian Labor Law, when workers reach a dispute with their employers because of their pay or other guild demands, they have a right to stop work. Therefore they didn’t do anything illegal to warrant the arrests.” All but one of the arrested miners was released on February 3; however, former union representative Bahram Hassaninejad, whose dismissal triggered work stoppages, still remains under arrest.

In related news, at the end of January the Iran Tire Manufacturing Company continued to protest against their lack of job security. According to reports, 600 workers joined the strike in protest to the trend of continued worker lay offs. Also in late January, 200 workers from the Zagros Steel Company gathered in protest demanding five months worth of back pay and insurance premium payments.

FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION & PRESS

Upon entering office, the new administration of President Rouhani expressed relatively progressive views about civil liberties and freedom of expression. The new president even Tweeted in June 2013, “I’ve pursued civil rights both under the Shad and now..I’ve always supported freedom of expression...I’ve always had a moderate approach.” But a recent statement released by the Iran’s Writers Association claims that the Intelligence Ministry forced the group to cancel its monthly advisory meeting. The statement was also released just two weeks after President Rouhani pledged to ease restrictions on artists, calling into question his ability to follow through on his promises. Similarly, 772 journalists urged Rouhani to live up to his promises and allow the Association of Iranian Journalists to reopen. The Association says they were hoping that this would have been one of the new government's accomplishments during its first hundred days, but instead the doors remain shut.
MINORITY RIGHTS

Iranians of Arab origin continue to face violence  and  repression  from  the  Iranian  government.  In order to silence opposition and dissent for the community, Iranian authorities have persecuted Iranian-Arabs through arbitrary arrest, torture, execution and deportation. In late January Iranian poet Hashem Shaabani and one other person were hanged at an undisclosed prison. In 2013, an Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal sentenced the poet to death, along with 14 others on charges of  “waging war on God,” “spreading corruption on earth,” and “questioning the principle of velayat-e faqih” (the rule of the jurisprudent).  Following their arrest, Press T.V. broadcasted their confessions, which were believed to have been made while under duress, where they claimed to have been members of “Al-Moghavemat Al-Shabiye” and that they were storing weapons in their homes. Shaabani’s execution highlights three important trends in Iran: Continued violent repression of ethnic minorities (Shaabani was an Iranian of Arab origin) through the threat of execution, the continued repression of those exercising their right to freely express themselves, and the overall deteriorating human rights situation in Iran. Similarly, more than 45 Arab citizens of Ahvaz were arrested following the the funeral of an Ahvazi poet. According to local sources, after the ceremony, buses taking back people to Ahwaz were stopped by police and security forces and all of the passengers were arrested.