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London protest calls for justice for imprisoned Iranian trade unionists

Workers from across London will be giving up their lunch hour today (Friday) to attend a protest outside the Iranian Embassy against its Government’s harsh treatment of trade unionists, something which is feared will get even worse in the wake of the current street demonstrations.

Long before the current crackdown against Iranians disputing the recent presidential election result, the Government had been harassing and intimidating trade unionists. In Iran members of independent trade unions are frequently beaten up or thrown into prison. And there are concerns that attacks on trade unionists will increase as protesters look for other ways of demonstrating against the regime by taking part in strikes and other work-related protests.

At 12.30pm today, several hundred protesters - all dressed in black – are expected outside the Iranian Embassy in Kensington, part of a global series of protests co-ordinated by the international trade union movement.

There will also be demonstrations outside a number of Iranian embassies and consulates such as Bangkok, Canberra, New Delhi, Tokyo and Wellington. In London the Justice for Iranian Workers demonstration has been organised by the TUC, Amnesty International UK and the International Transport Workers’ Federation. Here protesters will be holding aloft placards bearing the names of Iranian trade unionists still in prison following their arrest during May Day demonstrations.

There will be an attempt during the Kensington protest to hand in some 16,000 postcards collected as part of an Amnesty campaign which is calling on the Iranian regime to release all imprisoned trade unionists and recognise independent unions.

UK workers who cannot make it along to the London protest are being urged to visit the Amnesty website where they can email senior figures in the Iranian Government and call on them to release trade unionists like teacher Farzad Kamanger and bus drivers’ leader Mansour Osanloo.

Commenting on the Justice for Iranian Workers demonstration, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

“Even before the current protests, trade unionists in Iran were having a tough time. Only unions run by the state are allowed, and trade unionists involved in independent unions face repression by the Government and employers. And there is every chance that things will get even worse for trade unionists if the Iranian people use strikes to protest against President Ahmadinejad and his disputed election result.

“Workers from across London will be heading to the Iranian Embassy today to show support for those imprisoned in Iran, calling on the Government there to release them immediately and re-instate all those sacked for their union activities. We are protesting in solidarity with trade unionists in Iran because they have asked for our support and because Iran is violating universal human rights – we do not advocate or support unilateral interventions in how Iran is run.”

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said: “The rights to free speech and assembly are under wholesale assault by the authorities in Iran right now. Human rights activists, political opponents and ordinary demonstrators are being beaten and arrested by police and militia.

“Iran’s trade unionists have always been at the forefront of the fight for human rights and have frequently met with repression. We are here today in solidarity with trade unionists like Mansour Osanloo, who remains in prison, and for hundreds of other Iranians detained just for peacefully speaking their minds.”

ITF General Secretary David Cockroft said: “Today we all get the chance to show the Government of Iran how discredited it has become and how the whole world feels about the repression and violence it is creating. We intend to raise a worldwide clamour for reform that will force the regime to listen and understand that the time for change has come.”

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