The Iranian government recently did what it seldom does: change course in response to protests by Iranian citizens. After traders and merchants in Tehran and other Iranian cities went on strike and shuttered their doors for days in reaction to a new tax imposed by the government, the Iranian regime suspended the measure for at least a year.
The tax would have added an additional three percent to the cost of many products, at a time when the inflation rate in Iran has been climbing. In September, the official inflation rate reached 29%.
Free trade unions are not permitted in Iran, but in the last several years, many groups of Iranian workers –- bus drivers, textile and tire plant workers, sugar cane laborers, as well as teachers and others -- have protested dangerous working conditions and lack of pay.
The Iranian government frequently breaks up protests – often with violence -- and arrests workers and their leaders. Mansour Osanloo, president of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, is a case in point. He has been repeatedly imprisoned for his efforts to establish a free trade union and secure a living wage for bus workers.
His last arrest came in July 2007 when he was seized and brutally beaten on a bus in Tehran. Imprisoned ever since and in poor health, he been sentenced to 5 years for the so-called crime of "acting against the security of the regime." Mr. Osanloo's wife says her husband is guilty of no crime and is in prison only because he stood up for the rights of his comrades and co-workers.
Amnesty International, the International Trade Workers Federation, and the International Trade Union Confederation have called for the unconditional release of Mansour Osanloo and have voiced their support for the independent trade union movement in Iran.
The U.S. joins them in urging the Iranian government to release Mansour Osanloo and all Iranians imprisoned for pursuing their basic economic rights, including through peaceful trade union activities.