- Posted by Maryam Namazie
- On August 23, 2004
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International TV interview with Bahram Soroush and Fariborz Pooya
August 23, 2004
Maryam Namazie: Four labour activists – Mahmoud Salehi, the head of the Bakers’ Union of Saqez, Jalal Hosseini, Borhan Divargar and Mohammad Abdipour who had been previously arrested, have now been summoned to court again in Iran. Can you please tell us exactly what has happened?
Bahram Soroush: These four workers were arrested in this year’s May Day rally in the city of Saqez, Western Iran and were detained along with three others. However, following an international campaign and a lot of protests inside the country, the Islamic regime of Iran was forced to release them on bail. They have been summoned again and are due to appear in court on Tuesday 24th August [the court hearing has been postponed by the regime]. Their “crime”, under which they were charged, was to have taken part in a workers’ rally on International Workers’ Day. The charges now are their alleged affiliation with political organisations of the opposition, since under the Islamic regime any connection with dissident political parties is banned. In any case, these are fabricated charges.
Fariborz Pooya: It’s interesting that the initial charges that were brought against these workers were organising a May Day rally without permission. A few weeks before, in April, they approached the authorities in the city of Saqez to obtain permission, but were refused. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, normal gatherings and the assembly of workers to celebrate May Day are illegal. But we know for a fact that thousands of workers throughout Iran celebrate it, get together in rallies and to discuss the situation. As soon as the co-ordinating committee of the May Day rally called for a gathering in a city park, 51 of the participants, the main organisers, were arrested. That was on the first of May of this year. Their houses were raided; all their documents were taken away; their computers were taken away. They even took the birth certificates of one of the families so they couldn’t even register their children in school. While they were in prison, they were subjected to torture and humiliating treatment. They were freed under international and domestic pressure. People were actually gathering around the prison everyday demanding their release. There was intense international pressure on the Islamic Republic thanks to the activists of the Worker-communist Party of Iran abroad. We put a lot of pressure on the Islamic government. Many international trade unions wrote to the Islamic Republic and demanded their release and asked for an explanation of why the organisers of the May Day rally in Saqez had been detained.
Maryam Namazie: And we are seeing that pressure now as well. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions has asked to send a delegation to Iran.
Bahram Soroush: Yes, they have asked to send a delegation to Iran and have asked to be present to observe the proceedings but that has been turned down for obvious reasons. The question is why the Islamic regime is trying to summon the four to court. It should have learnt its lesson because of the huge amounts of pressure that was put on them in the first round. And there’s not going to be any let-up in that pressure. Maybe they thought that because of the state of emergency that they had managed to create across the country ahead of the anniversary of the student uprising, they had managed to push back the protest movement, and that this was the time to put them on trial. But the protests are continuing in other forms within the labour movement.
Fariborz Pooya: To add to what Bahram Soroush has said, there is a continuing battle between the working class in Iran and the Islamic government. Every month there is a strike, there is a lockout, and there are protests all over Iran.
Maryam Namazie: It’s interesting that you say that because often times in the mainstream media you don’t really see that very visibly.
Pooya: We have had a teachers’ dispute with the government on a nationwide scale about wages, working conditions and the way that teachers have been treated, the way that Islamic education has been imposed on the education system in Iran and how children have been treated. Then we have had the nurses protesting. Earlier in the year we had the copper mining factory workers who were locked out; the whole city was put under martial law and there was a huge protest. And the interesting thing that’s going on in Iran is the sense of solidarity with the striking workers and with the imprisoned workers. For example, workers in Saqez have the backing of the teachers in Iran and other sections of the working class, which is very promising. We need to strengthen that. I think the fact that they are receiving international attention as the main opposition force to the Islamic government is very significant.
The reason that it is not reflected in the mainstream media is because it doesn’t fit with the whole image of a ‘reformist’ Islamic government. The majority of the people in Iran are against the Islamic government. The working class is the backbone of the protest against the regime and that doesn’t fit in nicely with the picture that they have created; the picture that the Islamic regime of Iran is reformable; that it’s possible to work with it, and that the beast could be tamed. But that’s impossible. And there are huge protests in Iran, especially by the working class, against the Islamic government.
Maryam Namazie: Could you tell us more about what exactly can be done internationally to defend these workers.
Bahram Soroush: A big international campaign has already started. There was a demonstration on Saturday in Germany and there are going to be further demonstrations in several cities across Europe and I think in North America as well. There will be a demonstration in London in front of the Parliament under the banner that they are putting workers on trial in Iran and that this is unacceptable. We are calling on the whole international labour movement and trade unionists and workers to lend their support and come out strongly and condemn what the Iranian regime is doing. The Iranian regime should not be let off the hook. If they manage to prosecute workers for exercising their basic right of assembly and taking part in a workers’ rally, this will be the start of further attacks on the whole working class in Iran. And it’s very important that the Iranian regime receives a flood of emails, protest letter, faxes and resolutions from trade unionists and everyone who is concerned about that to show that nobody will accept such a grotesque violation of workers’ rights in Iran.
Fariborz Pooya: To add to that, in the topsy-turvy world of the Islamic regime, imposing poverty on people, taking away their rights and imprisoning people is acceptable and legal, but for people who want to exercise their basic right of assembly, that is illegal. Those who should be put on trial are not the four workers from Saqez but the leaders of the Islamic government in Iran who have imposed such destitution and poverty on people.
Bahram Soroush: In fact one of the demands of this international campaign is to put on trial those who by the orders of the Iranian regime attacked the demonstration on May Day. We should also realise that the Iranian regime has got its back to the wall, it’s not in a strong position; it is tottering and the situation can explode at any time in Iran. We know that any support for and solidarity with the Iranian working class, who are continuing this struggle under very repressive conditions, despite the fact that many workers have not received their wages for months, will be a tremendous moral boost so as to step up that protest. The Iranian regime is in a vulnerable position.
The above is an International TV (http://www.anternasional.tv/english) interview dated August 23, 2004.