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Workers Beaten and Arrested at May Day Parade

May 1, 2019
Javad Motevali
6 min read
Authorities beat up people taking part in a May Day rally and arrested at least 26 of them
Authorities beat up people taking part in a May Day rally and arrested at least 26 of them

Security agents and police have attacked and arrested groups of workers at a rally to mark International Workers’ Day on May 1.

About 500 labor, teacher and student activists gathered outside the Iranian parliament to mark May Day, responding to calls from labor and teachers’ associations to hold protest rallies for both workers’ day on May 1 and Iranian Teachers’ Day on May 2. Activists gathered outside parliament held banners and chanted slogans protesting against inflation, high prices and unemployment and called for unity among workers, teachers and students. A little later, the rally ended in violence, with security forces taking action against the protesters.

At 10am, more security agents, policemen and plainclothes agents arrived at the scene, and half an hour later the security forces attacked the gathering, beat the protesters and arrested a number of them.

According to the most recent reports, 26 protesters have been arrested, including Reza Shahabi, Hassan Saeedi, Vahid Fereydooni, Naser Moharram Zadeh, Seyed Rasoul Taleb-Moghaddam, Mohammad Ali Aslaghi, Asadollah Soleimani and someone referred to only as "Ms. Shiri" — all members of the workers’ union of Tehran Unified Bus Company. Also arrested were Keyvan Samimi, a member of the Iranian Writers Association, Kamiar Fakour, Mardas Taheri, Soleimani Nejad, Abbas Shams, Hadi Soleimani, Seyed Mehdi Azimi, Mahan Salehi, Ghasem Khaloui, Davoud Rafiei, Amir Mohammad Taheri, Anisha Asadollahi, Elham Salehi, Nahid Khodajoo, Nasrin Javadi, Mehdi Fakhri, Farhad Sheikhi and another person referred to as "Ms. Hasani-Vizheh." The names of the other detainees are not yet known.

Media reported that two members of a detainee’s family were also arrested. Marziyeh and Samira Amiri were taken into custody after they had gone to the security police headquarters to ask about their jailed family members.

According to eyewitnesses, when the police attacked the rally, a group of protesters started chanting against police brutality and moved toward Baharestan Square, the former site of the parliament. But the police immediately responded again with violence and attacked men and women, including retired workers.

Photos and videos posted on social networks show the police trying to push protesters toward the nearby metro station, but the protesters moved toward Baharestan Square while chanting against the authorities, as well as against high prices and inflation. According to some eyewitnesses, the gathering disbanded around 11am after violence from the security forces.

According to the Free Union of Iranian Workers, security forces also attacked a rally outside the Worker House, the national trade union that has the official approval of the government.

The Tehran Unified Bus Company workers' union condemned police violence in a statement, and demanded the immediate release of all detainees. The Free Union of Iranian Workers also issued a statement, praising all workers, teachers, retirees and students who had participated in May Day rallies and urged them to continue their protests until all detainees were released.


Rouhani Appeals to Workers

A day earlier, in a speech delivered on the eve of May Day on April 30, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani called upon the Iranian labor force to "work more,” arguing that one of the key ways to confront the US and its sanctions was Iranian workers’ "increase in production" and "working more,” saying that it provides welfare for the people and helps turn Iran into an "economic power."

However, after this statement, Rouhani immediately admitted: “Increasing quality and quantity of production cannot be done through orders,” adding without elaboration, “Workers need to benefit from the profits of production."

Praising a report by Mohammad Shariatmadari, the Minister of Cooperatives, Labor and Social Welfare, the president described the figures as “promising,” and said workers "must be more hopeful about the future since their spirited and vibrant work combined with rendering better services creates better products."


Charges Against One Labor Activist Dropped

While authorities were using violence to deal with May Day events, Mohammad Ali Jedari Foroughi, the lawyer for arrested labor activist Parvin Mohammadi, reported that a previous case against his client had been dismissed. According to him, Judge Mohammad Jalalian Azizi of Branch 7 of the Revolutionary Court in the city of Fardis had dismissed the charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “gathering and conspiracy to harm national security” against Mohammadi.

Another case against Parvin Mohammadi is pending but her lawyer expressed hope that she would be released soon. On April 26, Mohammadi and Haleh Safarzadeh, who are both members of the Center for Defending Workers’ Rights, were arrested and taken to Gohardasht Prison on the outskirts of Karaj. Also arrested were Valeh Zamani and Alireza Saghafi, members of the Free Union of Iranian Workers. The arrests were seen as part of a crackdown on labor activists ahead of International Workers’ Day.


New Prison for Three Activists

At the same time, it was reported that Esmail Bakhshi, an activist for Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane Factory’s Independent Labor Union, Sepideh Gholian, a civil activist who had participated in protests organized by Haft-Tappeh workers, and Amir Amir-Gholi, a member of the editorial board of the pro-labor publication Gam, had been transferred from Sepidar Prison in Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan Province, to Evin Prison in Tehran.

“In this situation when justice is not blind, it is very painful to me as a lawyer that I cannot do anything for my client,” Farzaneh Zilabi, the attorney for Esmail Bakhshi and Sepideh Gholian, posted on Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane Factory’s Independent Labor Union’s Telegram channel. 

“All throughout the proceedings at the court, Mr. Bakhshi was illegally deprived of access to his lawyer,” she wrote. She added that it was “unjust” and “disgraceful” that Article 48 of the Criminal Code of Procedure deemed that when charges were related to matters of national security, only lawyers on a list approved by the head of the judiciary were able to consult clients until the interrogations were complete. However, the case was dealt with in a more arbitrary manner when a case was not linked to national security charges.

In her note, Farzaneh Zilabi also detailed the torture Bakhshi had endured, as well as the numerous violations of his rights, including beatings, lack of access to his lawyer, solitary confinement and illegal eavesdropping on his conversations. The judge and the examining magistrate, she wrote, had closed their eyes to evidence that was “clear as day” and paid no attention whatsoever to evidence presented by his client, including medical case files from expert physicians and certifications that he had suffered injuries to his ribs and his eardrum. According to Zilabi, Bakhshi even had a letter from the official Medical Examiner but was rearrested before he could present it to the court as part of the complaint he filed about being tortured. “Not even one of my client’s witnesses were called,” she wrote, “and then, in the most unjust possible manner, they closed the case on torture.”


Related Coverage:

Crackdown on Labor Activists on Eve of May Day, April 29, 2019

Labor Activists Face Intense Pressure for Another TV Confession, February 22, 2019

Authorities Threaten Labor Activists, Families and Lawyers Following Media Interviews, February 13, 2019

Intelligence Ministry Takes Revenge on Labor Activist, February 4, 2019

Torture of Arrested Labor Activists and Their Families Continues, February 1, 2019

Iranian TV Airs Forced Confessions of Labor Activists, January 23, 2019

Labor Protests and Arrests Continue, December 12, 2018

Crackdown on University Students for Supporting Striking Workers, December 10, 2018

Sugar Refinery Workers Face New Round of Harassment, December 5, 2018

Pro-Labor Student Protest Ends in Violence, December 5, 2018

Striking Steel Workers Tell Rouhani: "We Have Had it!", December 3, 2018

Arrest and Torture of Protesting Workers, November 29, 2018



International Workers' Day in Iran

May 1, 2019
Mana Neyestani
International Workers' Day in Iran