A large demonstration in Ahvaz in southwestern Iran has called for striking steelworkers to be freed from prison.
Saturday night’s protest was spurred by the seizure of at least 10 men by security forces in overnight raids on Thursday.
No charges were announced, but the men were part of protests by hundreds of employees of the National Steel Industrial Group, in front of the Ahvaz Governor-General’s offices, over three months of unpaid wages.
Workers and their supporters — with the number claimed to be in thousands — chanted slogans such as “The imprisoned workers must be released”; “Beware, police officers! We are workers not hooligans”; “We are workers, we need bread, medical treatment and medicine”; and “We stand firm; we will die, but we will achieve our rights.”
Backing allegations of mismanagement by the former owner, the National Bank of Iran, current owner Abdolreza Mousavi — and seeking the resignation of regional Governor-General Gholamreza Shariati — the demonstrators shouted, “Thieves are outside, laborers are behind bars.”
Iran’s Free Trade Union circulated a directive issued by the factory’s managers accusing a “small number” of workers of “hampering the production and jihad work of their colleagues”.
The language echoed the Supreme Leader’s blame of “foreign enemies” of stoking discord among Iranian workers, made in a speech on February 5 and promoted on his website three weeks later.
The steelworks owner Mousavi, an Iranian tycoon, regretted the detentions but insisted that “several malicious individuals” are fomenting unrest.
Protests over pay and working conditions have been common in recent years in Iran, amid the country’s economic difficulties. They crystallized in late December and early January in rallies across the Islamic Republic, bringing the Rouhani Government’s response that it will address concerns.
Report: Gonabadi Dervish Dies in Custody
Mohammad Raji, a member of the Sufi Gonabadi Dervishes, has reportedly died in custody during interrogation.
Fellow Dervishes are claiming that Raji, a former Revolutionary Guards commander and a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War, was killed.
A number of Dervishes were detained last month amid clashes with security forces as they demonstrated in north Tehran, protesting the possible seizure of their leader, 90-year-old Nour-Ali Tabandeh.
Activists Zand and Babaei Freed — But Another Seized
Civil rights activist Dariush Zand has been released from detention, a day after his wife and fellow activist Shima Babaei was freed.
A video has been posted of the couple embracing outside the prison.
The couple were seized on February 1 by Intelligence Ministry officers. Amnesty International raised their case in a statement three weeks later.
However, Mohammad Habibi, an activist for the Teacher’s Union, has been arrested outside the computer college where he works.
Supreme Leader Takes Advantage of US Gun Issue
The Supreme Leader has seized a propaganda advantage with a focus on the issue of gun violence in the US.
Addressing university students and professors on Sunday, Ayatollah Khamenei spoke of “100s…killed every week by homicide for no crime — no reason”:
Today, in U.S., violence, moral corruption, collapse of family, children and next generations' have reached a level where US intellectuals insist on changing the content of movies, advertising, Hollywood cinema, etc… to that of 100 years ago with more moral aspects. pic.twitter.com/HCElrx1vZc
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) March 4, 2018
Khamenei said bluntly, “What’s the solution? It’s to make guns illegal” while denouncing the “corruption” and “powerful…gun companies” preventing action.