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First Weeksary of Labor Strikes in Iran

Empty promises, threats and repression no longer work. Workers do not break their strike. Their voices are now heard all over the world

Denmark 1722, France 1794, England 1807, United States 1865 – In Mauritania, although slavery was legally banned in 1981, it was not a criminal offense until 2007, after which, according to Amnesty International the first cases of legal punishment in this country for slavery were recorded in the history of the country, in 2016 for two people with a sentence of one year suspended imprisonment. Human rights activists in 2018 estimated the number of people living in Mauritania in slavery at 43,000. Slavery, even in its classic and ancient form, which for most of us is a concept belonging to centuries before us and distant past, has not yet disappeared at all, and among us, in the 21st century, it continues its dark life with us.

The law abolishing slavery in Iran

In Iran, a law banning slavery was passed in the National Assembly in the form of an emergency bill on February 7, 1929.

However, slavery and servitude never disappeared in other countries or in Iran. In most other countries they transformed and spread as “modern slavery” in societies.
In Iran, however, we have not only witnessed the spread of the modern phenomenon of slavery in the reality of society after 1979, but also the return of legal forms and the recycling of “slavery and servitude” in the form of Sharia law to institutions and society. Slavery in today Iran is institutionalized through backward Islamic laws. This institution is clearly and vividly crystallized in “child-marriage ” or “child-worker”, which are based on the legal laws of “marriage” and “work”.
“Modern slavery” is not just a stylish and dark phrase. This current ugly phenomenon has a very clear definition, dimensions and face.

What is Modern Slavery?

Slavery in human societies is nearly ten thousand years old. Legal abolition (on paper) of this historical antiquity “its ink has not yet dried.” The Walk Free Foundation, a non-governmental foundation, defines modern slavery as a “situation” in which “man is deprived of the freedom to control his own body; or the freedom to refuse to do something has been taken away from him.” Kevin Bales, a renowned American researcher and sociologist, introduces three criteria for defining slavery: control of human beings through the means of violence, loss of free will, and economic exploitation. In every definition, slavery presents us with an image of “nonfreedom”. Well-known and common types of modern slavery include forced labor, forced prostitution, political imprisonment, child labor, and the use of children as military force.

Using these criteria, three independent international organizations (1) began extensive research that resulted in achieving real and reliable statistics and images of slavery in today’s world: The Global Slavery Index! According to data collected from around the world, more than 40 million slaves lived in different countries in 2016. More than 20 millions of these people have been victims of forced labor.

Where is Iran in this Slavery Index?

Out of 167 countries, Iran was the tenth country with the highest rate of modern slavery in 2018. North Korea took first place that year. Iran’s population that year was 79,360,487, and its gross national product per capita was estimated at $ 19,988. 1,289,000 modern slaves were enslaved in Iran in 2018.

Given these undeniable facts, we can count the recent wave of strikes by contract workers in the oil, gas and petrochemical industries, which began and grew on an unprecedented scale in the south of the country on Saturday, August 1, and continues with full force, as a historic protest against the slavery laws in Iranian society.

A worker in Mahshahr dies due to heatstroke.
In the workers’ demand list from employers, we read that they want air conditioners in their transportation services, which are vital at temperatures above 50 degrees Celcius (122F); We read that their dormitories have no basic facilities for rest, that employers do not pay their wages, that unpaid wages are low and out of proportion to living expenses, a hell of human slavery and a paradise of a sacred system for flogging masters.

A worker in Mahshahr dies of heatstroke.
In the heat above 50 degrees Celcius (122F), the sugarcane workers of Haft Tappeh, today, August 7, 2020, on the 54th day of their powerful strike, protested in front of the governor’s office in Shoush County.
Dr. Yaser Rahmani, the contract physician of the Khuzestan Sugarcane Cultivation and Industry Complex, who is witnessing the suffering of the striking workers, decides to treat the heatstroke and protesting workers in his “free” time. Intelligence agents threatened him and prevented him from helping the strikers.

Empty promises, threats and repression no longer work. Workers do not break their strike.

Their voices are now heard all over the world.Institutions and trade unions from inside and outside the country declare their support and solidarity.

Yesterday, workers in Phase 13 of South Pars and the Parsian Sepehr Lamerd Refinery reportedly left their jobs and returned to their homes.

“We are going home so that you may weld and fitter instead of us, if you can,” was the phrase the workers of the Azaran Gostar Company of the Qeshm Heavy Oil Refinery told the employer.

Workers’ strikes and protests have not only focused on the oil, gas and petrochemical industries, but have also spread to other sectors. Reports of a strike by workers at the Sabalan Ardabil power plant, who left their workplaces yesterday and went home, were published on social media. Hepco workers, the indefatigable strikers of Haft Tappeh, more than ten thousand project workers from Fars, Khuzestan, Hormozgan, Bushehr and Isfahan provinces are going to expand their protests to other industries and other cities and provinces. The nationwide strikes are one step ahead of us and need the support of civil society. Workers are not alone.

Translation of this article by Sahar.

(1): International Labour Organization (ILO), International Organization for Migration (IOM), Walk Free Foundation

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