On 11 March 2022, Haleh Safarzadeh and Alireza Saghafi, who both serve as members of the Centre for Workers' Rights in Iran, were arrested, together with 17 other students and labour activists, during a private gathering at Mr Saghafi’s workplace. They were imprisoned at Kachuei Prison in Karaj. While the activists were later released, Haleh Safarzadeh and Alireza Saghafi were held in detention in one of the harshest prisons for serious criminal offences.
The two labour leaders had already been arrested, together with other worker rights’ defenders, on 26 April 2019 while meeting peacefully in a public park. They were put on trial by the Karaj Revolutionary Court on 24 August 2019 on the spurious charge of conducting “propaganda against the system” and sentenced to one year in prison.
Right to civil liberties
Farzaneh Zilabi, the defence lawyer for the Haft Tappeh sugar cane workers in Iran, was sentenced by the Ahvaz Revolutionary Court to one year in prison on 13 September 2021 for “propaganda activities against the state”. In addition to the prison sentence, Zilabi received a two-year ban on leaving the country. On 16 May 2021, she was issued a six-month ban from practicing law.
Following the privatisation of the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Agro-Industrial Complex in 2016, workers and the syndicate organised a number of strikes, most recently in August 2021, against the continuous unpaid wages of employees and the alleged corruption of the former owners.
Right to justice
Concerns grew for the well-being of Esmail Abdi, former secretary general of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association (ITTA), who has been imprisoned on numerous occasions since 2006 on trumped up charges of “propaganda against the state” and “espionage”. He was sentenced to five years in 2016 on fictitious charges of “spreading propaganda against the system” and “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security”. To prevent his release, on 11 January 2021, at the end of his previous sentence, the Iranian authorities executed a suspended ten-year sentence related to a 2011 case , thereby imprisoning him until 2031. Long imprisonment and ill treatment in the prison have severely affected his health. In the meantime, Esmail’s family (wife, two daughters and a son) were being harassed and victimised by the security forces and considered to be at serious risk.
Dismissals for participating in strike action
In Iran, 700 workers at a Tehran Oil Refining Company were fired on 22 June 2021 for participating in workplace strikes, which were part of a sweeping strike action occurring across Iran in which an estimated 20,000 oil and petrochemical workers took part across 11 provinces. Many workers from various industrial centres had joined the “1400 Campaign”, demanding higher wages, an increase in leave and holidays, and better health and safety conditions. These were longstanding demands that have so far been ignored by management and the Iranian regime’s authorities.