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Iran Supresses Labor Movement

The wife and sister of imprisoned Iranian labor leader Mansour Osanloo were arrested and later released in Tehran. Ironically, the two were detained while they were waiting to meet with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, who was visiting Tehran for a conference earlier this month.

Mr. Osanloo, the president of the Tehran bus workers union, has been repeatedly imprisoned for his labor activities. He was last arrested in July when he was brutally beaten. He is being held in the notorious Evin prison.

Attempts by the Iranian government to intimidate members of Iran's labor movement by threatening or arresting family members are not new. After bus drivers in Tehran went on strike in 2006 to protest low pay and poor working conditions, hundreds of bus drivers were imprisoned and many of their family members were arrested, in some cases violently.

The brutal treatment of labor leaders by Iran's clerical regime has not escaped notice outside Iran. Many human rights groups and union leaders across the world have demanded the release of Mansour Osanloo. They have also protested the detention of another Iranian labor leader, Mahmoud Salehi, founder of the Saqez Bakery Workers Association. He was arrested in April and has been held for six months in a prison in the city of Sanandaj, far away from his family.

James Hoffa is President of the Teamsters Union, which represents nearly one and a half million men and women in the United States and Canada. In August, Mr. Hoffa sent a letter to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling for the release of Mr. Salehi and Mr. Osanloo. President George W. Bush cited the plight of Iran's labor leaders when he talked of the struggle taking place between the forces of extremism and moderation in the Middle East:

"We see this struggle in Iran, where a reactionary regime subjugates its proud people, arrests free trade union leaders, and uses Iran's resources to fund the spread of terror and pursue nuclear weapons."

Mr. Bush says the Iranian people should not have to live this way. They should be represented, he says, by "leadership that enables them to have. . . .a better way of life. . . .that enriches their families, that gives them a better chance to succeed." .