Solidarity with the detained trade union leaders in Iran

CODIR calls for an international campaign for the release of Jafar Azimzadeh and Esmail Abdi as they are set to begin their hunger strike on 29th April




Esmail Abdi is General Secretary of the Iranian Teachers Trade Association.  He was arrested last year on 27 June when he answered a summons by the Prosecutor’s office at Evin prison that related to a separate travel ban imposed upon him.  He is now serving a ten year sentence on the charges of “organising and participating in illegal gatherings”, stemming from his legitimate trade unionist activities.





Jafar Azimzadeh is the President of the Free Union of Iranian Workers.  He was arrested for engaging in peaceful and legitimate trade union activities and was subsequently sentenced to six years imprisonment as well as being banned from all political and media activity for the following two years.




CODIR notes with alarm the renewed crackdown on independent trade union activity that has resulted in the arrest and detention, over the last year, of two further prominent figures of the trade union movement in the country, both of whom are imminently set to begin a hunger strike on account of their imprisonment and conditions.

CODIR, which has campaigned for over 30 years to highlight human rights abuses in Iran, has stated that these are amongst the latest in a long line of cases that highlight how much work there is to do, and progress to be made, regarding the human rights situation inside the country.

CODIR Assistant General Secretary, Jamshid Ahmadi, stressed the huge importance of the international community continuing to support the campaign for human rights inside Iran.

“Unfortunately, these detentions are yet more examples – if any were really needed – of what often befalls those campaigning for trade union, democratic and human rights within the country and the regime’s continuing blatant and wholesale disregard for even the most basic tenets of these, including freedom of assembly and speech – in effect, anything the regime apparatus could construe as providing an incubator or arena for opposition to its policies and rule…

“It is imperative that the guaranteeing of these rights and freedoms is impressed upon the Iranian regime as part and parcel of any transition in which it is to truly step out of isolation and assume its place on the world stage – lest the alternative message be given to the regime that it may continue to do whatever it pleases and continue to preside over one of the worst domestic human rights situations so long as it accords with its obligations internationally”.

“We welcome the lifting of sanctions and reduction of tensions between Iran and the rest of the world and in particular the US and the EU.  However this should not be at the expense of liberty for Iranian human rights campaigners, democrats and peace activists and a continually worsening human rights situation within the country.”

CODIR believes that the Iranian government should take the opportunity to demonstrate internationally a positive resolve through a change in its direction regarding these areas of concern. This would involve respecting human and democratic rights and, on a more immediate level, taking steps to end the incarceration of trade union leaders, activists and political prisoners.

Joint letter by Jafar Azimzadeh and Esmail Abdi from Evin Prison, Iran

Nowadays, it should be obvious to any fair-minded and decent individual that in Iran millions of workers, teachers and other hard working people are faced with back-breaking financial situations and have been continuously deprived of their most basic human rights.

These conditions include below poverty line wages and salaries, late payment of their earnings, the absence of job security, along with temporary contracts and an unconditional acceptance of the employer’s terms. A significant number of highly educated teachers are forced to accept teaching contracts, according to which they are paid on an hourly basis, or on conditional terms, with no employment insurance, at way below poverty line salaries. Meanwhile, the number of private schools is on the rise and public education for all is vanishing gradually. Social security coffers are being pillaged by the authorities and workers’ independent unions are continually under attack. At the same time, subsidies on basic goods such as bread, water, gas, dairy products, etc. have been removed. These are just a short list of the injustices that working people and teachers are facing today.

Workers and teachers, who make up a significant proportion of the Iranian population, are under such pressure that even working 12 to 18 hour shifts do not suffice to bring food to their tables and therefore they are forced to work second and third jobs to keep at mere subsistence level.

The government’s responses to this situation have been the increasing suppression of working class and teachers protests and the further pillaging of what is rightfully theirs.

Such policies have led to an official circular, for the prohibition of strikes, from the judiciary to many institutions with high concentrations of workers, after the government of president Rohani took office. The continuation of this suppression of any type of dissent has spread to even peaceful gatherings of workers demanding their most basic rights in the workplace, which has led to the incarceration of many of us in the country’s prison system.

They have accused us of being complicit in attempts at endangering the national security of the country, for which we have been sentenced to long prison terms and are presently serving those sentences in various Iranian prisons. We, like thousands of other protesting workers and teachers have done nothing but defend what is rightfully ours and our activities have all been totally transparent and have all taken place within the remit of unions and other independent workers’ organisations.

Our activities have all been legal and our demands totally legitimate, such as writing letters to officials in charge of workers’ affairs and collecting signatures condemning indecent and below poverty line wages and demands for our independent unions and activities, which are all totally in line with workers’ rights. Thus, according to the sentences issued in our case, any attempt at improving your life by using legitimate means is considered an action against the national security of the country.

We fully know and admit that our activities endanger the peace of mind and security of those who benefit from illegal profiting through blatant exploitation of workers and teachers. However, we insist on challenging them and achieving what is rightfully ours.

The exploiters are putting us in prison by pretending that their security is the same as the country’s national security. Therefore, we declare that – in protest against below poverty line wages and salaries; prohibition of right to strike; the lack of transparency by the ILO regarding the infringement of our rights by the Iranian regime; and, the absence of legitimate reasons for incarcerating protesters – we are beginning an unlimited hunger strike to commence on April 29.

Jafar Azimzadeh,        Evin prison, Section 8

Esmail Abdi,                Evin prison, Andishgah 8

Copies to ITUC (International Trade Unions Confederation) and EI (Education International)

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