CODIR AGM Welcomes New General Secretary!

For Rights and Justice in Iran: CODIR’s AGM 2023

The Committee for Defence of Iranian People’s Rights (CODIR) held a well-attended AGM this weekend at UNISON’s central London headquarters. In her opening remarks, the meeting’s chair, Liz Payne, welcomed everyone, including those joining online from Canada, where CODIR also has an active organisation, Germany and across Britain.

The election of a new Central Council saw Gawain Little, General Secretary of the General Federation of Trade Unions (GFTU), confirmed as CODIR’s new General Secretary. Addressing the AGM, Mr Little stated:

“It is an honour to be appointed General Secretary of a campaign with such a proud history and tradition. Recent strikes and protests in Iran show the potential for change and we must raise the voices of trade union and progressive forces in Iran through building the solidarity of the British trade union movement for peace, justice, and freedom.” Gawain had worked with CODIR over many years, having previously chaired the International Committee of the National Education Union (NEU). The meeting also elected Alex Gordon, president of the RMT, to continue as its president.

The AGM heard a keynote presentation from Azar Sepehr, the representative of the Democratic Organisation of Iranian Women (DOIW) in Britain. The DOIW is Iran’s largest progressive women’s organisation still operating there; its activities have been banned by the reactionary regime since the early 1980s.
Ms Sepehr emphasised the extent of ongoing embedded prejudice and misogyny in the Islamic Republic. She spoke of the systemic enforcement of anti-women legislation by the Iranian regime and the brutality with which any protest was met. But she also stressed that this had not prevented women from coming into the public arena to demand their rights and pointed to the huge and continuing impact of the “Woman, Life, Freedom!” movement that had swept the country in 2022. This had given impetus to the wider struggle of the Iranian people against the theocratic dictatorship.

Ms Sepehr was warmly applauded for her contribution and CODIR’s solidarity was expressed by the chair, Liz Payne, on behalf of everyone.

Speaking in a personal capacity via Zoom link from Canada, Mehdi Kouhestani, of the Canadian Labour Congress, brought up-to-the-minute news of the current strike wave in Iran and the difficulties faced by trade unions in trying to organise under the oppressive laws of the Islamic Republic.

Mehdi Kouhestani, Canadian Lanbour Congress
Mehdi Kouhestani, Canadian Lanbour Congress

Mr Kouhestani cited a range of trade unions who continued to fight for improved pay and conditions despite these pressures – including oil workers, metal workers and mechanics, teachers, public transport workers, and journalists, all of whom had members imprisoned for demanding basic trade union rights. Current estimates suggest that there are between two and three hundred teachers imprisoned in Iran at the present time, including the general secretary and leading elected officers of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association (ITTA). He stressed the importance of international solidarity in supporting Iranian workers in their fight for rights and justice in the workplace and was assured of CODIR’s ongoing support for workers in struggle in Iran.

In presenting CODIR’s Report of Work, Liz Payne reminded those present that since its founding more than 40 years ago, the organisation had campaigned for peace and human and democratic rights in Iran, for the release of all political prisoners and for trade unions to have freedom to organise and campaign effectively. But at the same time, it had been unequivocal in calling for an end to intervention in Iran by all foreign powers. “CODIR has always held that the Iranian people and they alone have the right to determine their own future”, Ms Payne told the meeting. CODIR had been particularly successful in its trade union liaison work, in running a number of specific campaigns and in the dissemination of information and analysis through its publication, Iran Today, its website, and a series of special bulletins.

Going forward, it was agreed that CODIR would continue with its main campaigning priorities, always in response to the fast-moving development of the people’s protest and struggle in Iran. It was agreed that the incoming Central Council would review CODIR’s communications strategy to maximise its effectiveness. Particular emphasis would be given to enhancing CODIR’s presence on social media.

The AGM adopted a motion initiating a major project submitted by the outgoing Executive Committee, calling on CODIR’s incoming Central Council and Executive Committee to work for greater co-ordination across the trade union movement in Britain in support of the ongoing struggle of the Iranian people. It noted that in 2022 alone there were more than 1200 strikes recorded in the country, all of which were forcing the regime into retreat.

The motion stated that “Our seven national trade unions [the FBU, NASUWT, NEU, RMT, UCU, Unison and Unite] are a powerful start. We should ensure that the TUC also recognises and supports this co-ordinated effort.” The motion also stressed that CODIR should work with IndustriALL Global Union, the European TUC, the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), and Education International (EI) in an effort to build co-ordinated activity across international trade union bodies, in a concerted and focussed effort to bring pressure to bear on the regime in Iran to implement the ILO conventions to which it is a signatory.

The meeting also thanked, and confirmed its ongoing commitment to work jointly with, the National Assembly of Women, Liberation and the International Centre for Trade Union Rights (ICTUR).

Central Executive Council


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