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2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Iran

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Iran, 8 June 2011, available at: [accessed 16 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 74,200,000
Capital: Tehran
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 182

A teacher and trade unionist was hanged after a sham trial, despite international outcry. The Government failed to act on its international promises to release the bus workers' leader Mansour Osanloo and issued at least seven more prison sentences and at least one corporal punishment. Many workers were arrested for supporting the right to organise. Trade union rights are severely limited, and strikes are prohibited.


While the Constitution protects freedom of association, genuine trade union rights are not guaranteed in law. The Labour Code stipulates that either an Islamic Labour Council or a guild society can be established at a workplace, however the law strongly favours the former. The Labour Councils are linked to the Workers' House, the "official" workers' organisation set up and backed up by the authorities and employers. No other form of representation is allowed where a council has been established, although workers are allowed to collect signatures for dismissing an Islamic Labour Council. Prior authorisation is required for organising, as well as for concluding collective agreements. Furthermore, the labour laws do not apply in workshops with less than five workers and in the export processing zones. Although strikes are not allowed, workers in the private sector can down tools as long as they remain at the workplace or operate a go-slow. All work stoppages in the public sector are prohibited.


Background: Human rights abuses continued as the government sought to consolidate its power in the aftermath of the highly controversial 2009 elections. Hundreds of activists remain in prison without charges. Tortures are routinely used to extract confessions, and political prisoners are systematically denied medical care. A juvenile offender was executed in July, and over a hundred minors remain on death row. 86 trade unionists, trade union journalists and human right defenders remained in prison by the end of 2010. Iran's pursuit of nuclear power resulted in sanctions against the country (United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929), and on 27 July and later on 27 November the European Union Council strengthened its sanctions against Iran.

Right to organise heavily suppressed: The government relies on "security laws" to suppress any public expression of dissent. Many activists have been convicted of "propaganda against the state" and "jeopardising national security" by the Revolutionary Courts without any respect to international or Iranian fair-trial standards. While the government-backed Workers' House or Islamic Councils consistently fail to address issues such as rights at work, privatisation, structural adjustments, low salaries and wage arrears, workers who try to organise independently are subjected to different forms of harassment, including violence, arrests, detention and potentially lengthy prison sentences, often in the notorious political detainees' Section 209 of Evin prison. Security and intelligence forces are often at workplaces to intimidate workers, and reports of trade unionists' mistreatment by prison authorities are common.

Independent teachers' unions fight uphill battle: Since 1999, separate independent teacher associations have been formed, and in 2001 the Coordinating Council of Iranian Teacher Trade Associations CCITTA was founded. In 2007, teachers' protests led to harassment, detention and incarceration of the labour activists, and many suffered pay cuts, were dismissed and forced to retire. The Interior Ministry has since issued a ban on all teachers' associations. Even though the associations have never been formally dissolved by court, intelligence officers insist that the associations have been liquidated by the government and that the teachers should resign from them. Several teacher associations have been crushed by the intelligence service, but some, such as the associations in Tehran, Esfahan and Kermanshah, remain active. Often, union meetings are either dispersed or supervised by officers from the intelligence service. Discrimination against unionised students has also been reported.

Teachers' trade unions targeted: Previous editions of the Annual Survey have reported arrests and detention of union activists just before Teachers' Day, and 2010 was no exception. The anti-union campaign started once the Iranian Teachers' Trade Association published a statement demanding the release of unfairly imprisoned trade unionists. On 16 April a number of members of the Central Council of the Coordinating Council of Iranian Teacher Trade Associations from several towns were approached by the secret police and had to break up their meeting in Yazd.

On 24 April, three members of the Iranian Teacher Trade Association of Hamedan were summoned to the local secret police office. Ali Najafi was detained for 24 hours, and all of them were interrogated again on 26 April. Meanwhile, Mohammad Beheshti Langeroudi and Aliakbar Baghani were summoned to the Tehran Investigation Office of the Intelligence Ministry on 24 April for a few hours while their homes were searched by secret police. On 22 April, Tofigh Mortezapour and Hasan Kharatian of the Iranian Teacher Trade Association of Tabriz were summoned to the local secret police offices. On 26 April, Mortezapour's house was searched and his personal items, including his computer and his notes, were confiscated. Ali Sadeghi and Mohammad Tavakoli of the Iranian Teacher Trade Association of Kermanshah were sentenced to flogging and fines by the criminal court in Kermanshah for "organising illegal gatherings" (teachers' meetings) in 2006.

Teacher hanged: On 9 May 2010 Farzad Kamangar, a 35-year-old teacher and member of the Teachers' Trade Association of Kurdistan, was hanged in secret in Evin prison in Tehran. Kamangar, who had lived with the threat of death penalty since 2008, was accused of "endangering national security" and "enmity against God". After a sham trial that had lasted less than five minutes, the teacher suffered torture and psychological pressure in prison. His family was not informed on the forthcoming execution or allowed to say goodbye.

Although the Iranian authorities had accepted Kamangard's appeal, the case stalled when it should have been sent to the Supreme Court for review. After further delays, Kamangar's lawyer was told that his file had been lost. Despite the evident lack of independent inquiry into the allegations and the absence of a fair judicial process, the teacher was executed to the outrage of the international trade union movement and human rights defenders.

Crackdown on the sugar union: On 1 December Reza Rakhshan, executive board president of an independent union at the giant cane growing and processing Haft Tapeh complex in the southern city of Shush, was sentenced to six months in prison.

The charge was "spreading lies" – in an article Rakhshan dedicated to the union's second anniversary, Rakhshan addressed both the imprisonments of workers' leaders and improvements in working conditions owing to the activities of the independent union. Rakhshan, previously the union's communications officer who had been arrested on 4 January, released on bail and then dismissed from his job, was the second union president to be thrown into jail, following the imprisonment of Ali Nejati in 2009.

On 18 November, three Haft Tapeh union members – Behrouz Nikoufard, Alireza Saeed, and Behrouz Molazadeh – were convicted and sentenced to six months in prison by the Ahwaz Court of Appeal on charges of "showing disrespect to the Supreme Leader". Other Haft Tapeh union members have also served time in prison, been fired from their jobs, expelled from their homes and blacklisted from employment. New charges could mean back-to-back prison sentences leaving trade unionists in jail for years. The Haft Tapeh trade union is one of very few genuine trade unions that appear to have the right to exist within the national legal framework.

Mansour Osanloo and Ebrahim Madadi still in prison: Mansour Osanloo, the president of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (Sherkat-e Vahed) trade union, and Ebrahim Madadi, the vice-president of the same union, are still in jail, serving prison sentences of five and three and a half years respectively for defending workers' rights. Osanloo has been incarcerated since July 2007 and is currently placed in Reja'I Shahr prison, west of Tehran, among prisoners who have been convicted of crimes such as murder. His health is continuously deteriorating due to pre-existing medical problems as well as new ones gained through the way he was treated in prison. In April he received a much-needed check-up in an outside medical clinic.

In June 2010 the ILO published an Interim Report of the Committee on Freedom of Association on Case 2508 (complaint against the Government of Iran presented by the ITUC and the International Transport Workers' Federation ITF). The report quoted the Iranian Government's indication that Osanloo was to be pardoned. However, the Iranian government failed to fulfil its promises, and on 1 August Osanloo's sentence was extended by one more year. Madadi has been in jail since December 2008. Both men have been maltreated while in custody, and both are recognised as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International.

More bus workers' union activists arrested and beaten: Saeed Torabian, the spokesman of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (Sherkat-e Vahed) trade union, was arrested on 9 June at his home by security officials who also confiscated his computer and mobile phone. He was released on 20 July on heavy bail and charged with "acting against national security" and "propaganda against the system".

On 12 June Reza Shahabi, the union treasurer, was tricked while on sick leave to report back to the headquarters of the Bus Company. There, security officials took the unionist to his house, performed a search and confiscated Shahabi's computer. Shahabi was transferred to ward 209 of Evin prison. International trade unions received reliable reports that Shahabi had been heavily interrogated, despite reported health issues, and denied legal advice or contact with his family. Shabahi's family paid the bail of 60 million toman (the equivalent of EUR 37,000); however, the release was delayed. The unionist went on a hunger strike from 4 to 20 December, and only stopped when urged by his colleagues. His court hearing had not been held by the end of the year, since his lawyer had not received Shabahi's file on time.

On 3 November, Torabian and fellow trade unionist Gholamreza Gholamhosseini were beaten up in a Karaj internet café by six men who then dragged the unionists to prison. After being interrogated and threatened, Saeed Torabian was released on bail. Gholamreza Gholamhosseini remained in jail by the end of the year.

On 9 November, another union member, Homayoun Jabari, accompanied Gholamhosseini's wife to the intelligence office to try to discover her husband's whereabouts. Jabari was detained and held at branch four of Rajai Shahr prison for eleven days and eventually released on a bail of USD 30,000. Jabari's house was also searched, and his computer and books were confiscated by the security officers, who also threatened his wife. Earlier, on 2 March, Jabari had been charged with "plots against national security" because of his participation in the 2009 May Day rally. He had been unfairly dismissed, and the Bus Company has continued to obstruct Jabari's reinstatement, despite a court order.

On 23 November Morteza Komsari of the same union was summoned to court and arrested upon appearance. Komsari, along with Aliakbar Nasariis, who was similarly arrested on 29 November, was released at the end of December.

Unionists sentenced: On 17 April Pejman Rahimi, a union activist who had supported the Haft Tapeh union, was sentenced to one year imprisonment and 40 lashes of whip for "disrupting public order". On 1 May Mohammad Olyaiefard, a lawyer for the Haft Tapeh and Tehran Bus Workers' Union, was arrested. He remained in detention by the end of the year. On 11 May, Abolfazl Abedini Nasr, a journalist and a labour rights activist, was sentenced to 11 years of peremptory confinement.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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