Summary: Appeal on behalf of locked out workers whose plant has been privatized and its capital stolen, and who also face state repression. Translated from the Persian by Hamid Vahed — Editors
It has been over 40 days since the Haft Tappeh Sugar cane factory workers went on strike and demonstrated on the streets. They were requesting the following changes: immediate salary payments that they did not receive for the last four months; reactivation of their health insurance; return of the workers who had been laid off from work; arrest of the owner who embezzled the money and harassed the workers; cancel the privatization of their factory; return of all the assets back to the company; and finally, terminate the employment of retired office workers.
These sugar cane factory workers went on strike for a similar reason two years ago. Workers took an enormous risk in that challenge, which lasted 28 days. Some of the workers’ leaders, such as Ismail Bakhshi, were arrested and falsely accused by the police. They were tortured and forced to condemn their cause on television in a humiliating manner. Although Ismail Bakhshi was released on bail later on, Sepideh Gholian, a freelance journalist who was reporting the protests, was sent back to prison because she refused to pay the bond.
The recent strike started when the courts started to try the Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane factory owner, Asad Beigi. President Rouhani’s government supports Asad Beigi because he has been given full ownership of the factory by the Iranian government due to previous connections with Rouhani. There are different factions in the government. The Chief Justice, Ebrahim Raisi, who pretends he is against corruption, has tried some of the corrupt owners who operate at the lower levels of the system, including Asad Beigi.
During the second wave of COVID-19 attacks in the hot weather of Khuzestan province, a place in which the temperature sometimes reaches 120 degrees Fahrenheit, workers gathered in front of government offices and repeated their demands, but the authorities ignore the workers, hoping that poverty and hunger will bring them to their knees.
Neither the employer nor the Iranian government have given any specific promise for the back payment of salaries. Workers claim the owner has received a low rate for foreign currency to provide materials for the factory; however, he sold the foreign currency in the black market and transferred the money to Canada instead. The workers of Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Factory demand that the Canadian Parliament and the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau investigate this matter and publish the result. They asked the government of Canada to confiscate the money that belong to the workers.
One of the issues that has united the various factions of the government against the workers, in spite of their differences, is their opposition to the workers’ demand to reverse the privatizations. The Islamic Republic followed World Bank guidelines for privatizing government-owned entities over the last 2 decades. Financial institutions, lands, factories, and so on, have all gone into the hands of relatives of government officials at very cheap prices. These facilities were plundered by these people. The reversal of the privatization of these entities is a common demand of Iranian workers. Besides the united Haft Tappeh workers, workers of Hepco in Arak have issued the same demand. They have been protesting for four years.
Vast privatizations in the educational and health systems had negative effects on teachers and nurses as well. Government officials are aware of these negative effects, which is why they are not willing to reverse the privatization for Haft Tappeh. These workers need the immediate support of workers around the world, such as through the media, progressive lawyers, and human rights organizations in Europe and United States, especially from trade unions
Long live the solidarity of the workers around the world!