Iran,  Trade Unions

An exercise in clarification

Although Mansour Osanloo, leader of the independent Tehran bus workers’ union, was freed from prison last year after after serving four years for his trade union activities, his brother Afshin Osanloo, an activist in the same union, is still behind bars after being convicted on charges of “colluding against the national security of the country.” He has been imprisoned since 2009.

In a letter obtained by, Afshin Osanloo writes:

I was arrested and transferred to the Intelligence Ministry’s ward known as Evin’s Ward 209 by armed plain clothes agents in the fall of 2009 while resting at a hostel assigned to drivers at the passengers terminal. I endured interrogation and torture for a period of five months at the solitary confinement cells in Ward 209 of the Sanandaj Intelligence detention center. The torture I was subjected to included: beating by cable to the souls of my feet, being forced to run with injured feet at a result of beatings by cable, long interrogation sessions lasting for seventeen to eighteen hours, vulgar insults and extreme beatings by a group of interrogators leaving me with broken ribs and teeth. During my five months of harsh interrogation, my family had no news of me what so ever and their efforts to obtain any information regarding my condition were fruitless. I was even deprived of calling my mother, an old and ailing woman who had already suffered from the arrest and incarceration of her older son Mansour Osanlou.

…I was deprived of a right to a lawyer during the entire judicial process and my trial lasted only a few minutes. A week later I was sentenced to 5 years behind bars… What exactly did I do against the national security of my country? I was neither politically active, nor was I affiliated with any political group or entity. I was a civic activist and my activities were always within the framework of the law. The only crime I committed was demanding the legal rights of the workers. The arrest and imprisonment of those who demand that workers’ rights be upheld will not make the problems disappear…

Having made my case public, I therefore ask the International Workers’ Transport Federation (ITF) and the International Labor Organization (ILO) to support the plight of their suffering colleagues in Iran, ensuring that their voices are heard across the globe. I ask that our case be brought to the attention of international human rights organizations, demanding that they investigate the unacceptable condition of workers in the Iran’s transportation sector, including the issuance of unjust and illegal sentences imposed on workers such as myself. Let us create awareness amongst the workers across the globe and in particular the transportation sector so that the world at large becomes cognizant of the fact that the basic rights of hard working laborers in Iran continues to be utterly neglected and the slightest objection on our part toward such injustices has only resulted in imprisonment and torture and the persecution of ourselves and our family members.

Now, as an exercise in clarification, let’s make a list of some of the “leftwing” champions of the working class who– even if they knew about Osanloo’s appeal for solidarity– would not lift a finger to help him and his fellow suppressed Iranian trade unionists:

— Hugo Chavez (who received the congratulations of his “dear brother” Ahmadinejad on his reelection as president of Venezuela).

Press TV presenters George Galloway and Ken Livingstone.

— Andy Newman and John Wight of the Socialist Unity blog.

Seumas Milne of The Guardian.

That’s off the top of my head. Who else? (Please provide links indicating support for, or sympathy with, the Iranian regime.)