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Iranian trade unionist Osanloo goes into exile

Back in 2006, I joined a demonstration in front of the Iranian Interests Section in Washington to call for justice for striking bus workers in Tehran and the release of imprisoned union leaders.

Those union leaders included Mansour Osanloo, head of the Tehran bus workers’ union, whose cause has garnered support from trade unionists and human rights activists worldwide.

Osanloo, who has been in and out of prison a number of times, spoke to a 2007 meeting in London of the International Transport Workers Union Federation (a text of his speech is here). Osanloo was rearrested shortly after his return to Iran and imprisoned again until 2011.

His brother Afshin Osanloo, an activist in the same union, has been imprisoned since 2009.

Now Golnaz Esfandiari at Persian Letters reports that death threats from Iranian government security circles have driven Mansour Osanloo out of the country.

Osanlu, who is described by some as “Iran’s Lech Walesa” after the labor leader who helped bring free trade unions and, ultimately, democracy to Poland, was speaking by phone from Turkey in one of his first media interviews since arriving there months ago.

He warned that the atmosphere in the Islamic republic is becoming more repressive “day by day.”

The president of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburb Bus Company told RFE/RL that he had upset authorities recently because he had increased his organizing activities.

“We were trying to bring unity among various workers groups in order to reach a solidarity society or a workers federation, I had become very active in this since last year and It didn’t remain secret from [authorities] who would send me all kinds of messages and threats,” Osanlu said. “They had told my two bailsmen who had secured my release from prison in 2011 that I should present myself at the prosecutor’s office or at the prison. All of these events in addition to the information I received that there were discussions to kill me, hit me with a car, or do some similar to the chain killings [of intellectuals] — I was also told by friends that it wasn’t right for me to stay in Iran — made me reach the conclusion [that I had to leave].”
…..
Forcing activists into exile appears to be a strategic tactic by Tehran. In recent years, and especially since the bitterly disputed 2009 election and the ensuing crackdown, the regime has intensified pressure on many of those pushing for change.

Osanlu said he’s not discouraged.

“Being inside or outside the country is not a determining factor, I think,” Osanlu said. “What is important is what conditions you’re facing and what possibilities you have and what price you’re ready to pay.”

May Osanloo one day return to a free and democratic Iran, of which he would rightfully be one of the leaders.