TEHRAN, 29 Jan. (IPS) The clerical-led authorities of the Islamic Republic crashed “ruthlessly” a general strike planned by the Union of the Single Bus Company of Tehran and Suburbs (SBCTS) for Saturday 28, arresting “hundreds” of drivers, workers and personnel and their families.
Following of the “savage and inhuman” assault of the police, security forces and revolutionary guards on its members, the 17.000 strong SBCTS’s Union called on Sunday on all workers and unions of the free world as well as the inhabitant of the Capital and Iranians to support them in their strike and protest to the authorities.
On the behalf of the 17.000 members of the Union of the SBCTS, we inform you that our strike was met with an unprecedented assault of the authorities.
According to well informed sources and eyewitnesses,on orders from the Government of the islamo-populist President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad, thousands of security forces in plainclothes, police and militias backed by the Revolutionary Guard’s anti-riot units attacked drivers, workers and personnel of the Bus Company of Tehran, arrested over one thousands, including wives, children and families, beat up the strikers, wounding at least 50 of them, reported in a “very serious state”.
Aimed at urging the release of Mr. Mansour Osanlou, one of the leaders of the Company’s Union and also press for their long due demands, including better work conditions and salaries, the authorities pre-empted by invading all depots, arresting drivers and personnel who refused to work, taking buses out of garages, using military personnel, a communiqué from the SBCTS said.
The communiqué, addressed at both all Iranians as well as all unions and organizations of the “free world’s workers”, informs them of the “brutality” with which the authorities “assaulted and crushed their planned strike and calls on them to “denounce the brutal use of force against the Union’s members and their families and demanding the “immediate release” of all of the detained members.
“On the behalf of the 17.000 members of the Union of the SBCTS, we inform you that our strike was met with an unprecedented assault of the authorities”, the communiqué that was published by Iranian media outside said, adding that “hundreds of our members have been detained overnight, including their families and even children”.
“We call on you, our colleagues every where in the world, to condemn this brutal aggression and urge the Iranian Government to recognize our rights. We call on you to condemn the crackdown on our Union and urge the prosecution of those responsible for this illegal move”, the communiqué stressed.
According to the communiqué, Tehran’s Mayor, General Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf – a former commander of the Revolutionary Guards Air Force and Police Chief --, has condemned the strike, saying the SBCTS’ Union is “illegal” because it is not officially registered. “Does not Mr. Qalibaf know that our Union is one of the oldest in Iran and enjoying dedicated members?”, it said.
With more than 17.000 members, the Tehran Bus Company’s Union is one of the largest, best organized and older of all Iranian unions.
The Saturday 28 January strike follows that of 22 December 2005, which ended after the Mayor cooled down the situation promising to study the case of the Company’s members and help free all the Union’s d leaders detained by the authorities.
The order for the arrest, detention and seizure of all documents of the arrested men was issued by Judge Sa’id Mortazavi, the Prosecutor for Tehran and Islamic Revolution Tribunals.
“They (plainclothes men) attacked at night, raided houses, did not show the slightest regards for small children and women, took the men, searched the house, confiscated everything and destroyed the household, “as if we had been attacked by a mortal enemy”, one source reported to Iran Press Service.
The crackdown follows months of disturbances in the SBCTS, where drivers and the personnel is asking for better work conditions and wage increase.
The first arrests took place early morning on Thursday 22 December by agents from the Office of the Prosecutor accompanied by plainclothes policemen. “The agents raided our house very early in the morning, presenting warrants from the Prosecutor, took away my husband, searched the house and took away all his documents and computer”, the wife of one of the arrested men told a Farsi-language radio station based outside Iran.
The crackdown follows months of disturbances in the SBCTS, where drivers and the personnel is asking for better work conditions and increase of their salaries, freezed since at least four years while prices for everything in Iran has raised by more than ten times, particularly housing rents and basic food.
The malaise started after leaders of the Union, while in a meeting, were suddenly attacked by plainclothes members of the Ansar Hezbollah and badly beaten up, injuring some of the participants and going as far as cutting the tongue of one of them”, informed sources told IPS. “The Government took no action, when it heard about the attack and instead of ordering investigation, ordered the arrest of the SBCTS’s leaders”, he added.
Ansar Hezbollah is a pressure group controlled by Ayatollah Ali Jannati, an influential cleric close to the leader of the Islamic Republic, who is also the Secretary of the powerful Council of the Guardians.
“Strike is labourer’s natural right. For months, we are trying to explain our problems to the authorities. We have talked to most of them, including one of the President’s advisors, but never got any answer to our demands”, Mr. Torabian said, adding that several of the detained people are even not members of the Union’s Executive Committee, “but simple members of the Union involved of informing the people, distributing our communiqués and petitions”.
“The way the arrests were carried out shows that the Government of Mr. Ahmadinejad, the very one that had promised justice and help to the poor, is determined to abolish the SBTCS’s Union, one of the oldest and most powerful of all Unions in Iran”, a journalist told Iran Press Service on condition of anonymity, adding that on order from the authorities, the media had been banned to report the event.
“We call on you to urge the authorities of the Islamic Republic to immediately and without condition free all of our detained leader, to present official apology and promise to respond to our legitimate demands”, the communiqué said, warning the Government that “otherwise, we woud have no choice but continue our struggle”. ENDS SBCTS 29106