No, not that kind of strike. This kind of strike. Some of you are probably surprised. That is my whole point. Please bear with me. Succinctness is not my virtue and I feel this is very important and hope to initiate a serious discussion about it.
February and March have been terrible months for human rights in Iran on all fronts, from students to bloggers to women to lawyers to Bahai and more. But all of this has been widely featured and discussed on this website. The ruthless crackdown on the organized labor movement in Iran, however, unless I missed something in Persian, has gone completely unnoticed except for one newsfeed which was very skimpy due to the skimpiness of its source (RFE/RL via Payvand), and so was neither featured nor commented here. So basically, here on this site, workers' rights are being completely ignored during this time of accute crisis.
I stumbled upon the dimensions of the crisis quite by accident. It was weeks before that one newsfeed ,and it was only one item about a flogging on a site that had nothing to do with Iran specifically. I had to do a lot of leg work and putting together pieces and source searching and verifying, but essentially what I've found out is that the current crackdown includes a full-frontal attack on Kurdish labor organizers; a central labor organizing group in Iran, the Komitteye Hamahangi; and the entire leadership of the Haft Tapeh Sugar Workers Union in Khuzestan.
The first includes, along with many arrests, the particularly brutal flogging (70 lashes) of a young woman; the second, the endangement of any central organizational structure for the movement. and the third, the potential devastation of the second official, second largest, and one of the most famous and active labor unions in Iran (along with Osanloo's Vaheb bus workers union in Tehran). Thus Haft Tapeh has a huge symbolic importance for the movement and its collapse--all its leaders are now eirher under or awaiting trial--would be disastrous. (Btw, Haft Tapeh workers often go months without pay because it's government run and it's going bankrupt while IRI spends millions on..oh, forget it...) Incredibly, however, during the very days when this purge has been at its worst, there have been two labor strikes in Iran, one of the Isfahani steel factory workers and one of the Nushab beverage factory workers. Talk about stamina
So I decided to write an article, hopefully highly accessible to all sectors of the general readership, about this crackdown, and follow up with a blog mainly for the regular blogging community. (Although the distinction is somewhat nebulous here, due to the mission and structure of this website, still a distinction can be made). I won't bore you with the details of how arduous and hence protracted this enterprise has become, in no small part, but by no means only, due to my inability to read the primary sources which are in Persian. but only say that due to the delay I've decidecd to write the blog first. I have one seminal question.
Why the silence?
The information is hard to get (certainly almost impossible in English) but it's out there. I actually think there may be several reasons for this silence, but I want to focus on one crucial idea I have in particular. Again, please bear with me.
It seems to me that the "Left" (for back of a better word and which btw includes me) should be (and historically at times has been) a natural home for human rights. However, on this site the "Left", due in part to our affiliation with the peace movement and in part to our "anti-Colonialism", focuses on what I would call the "macro", that is, geopolitics, in order to prevent foreign intervention, particularly military strikes, on Iran. Because of this, they (we) are often called "apologists" but I don't see it that way. I think we do it for tactical reasons. We are seriously afraid that if too much attention is drawn to the human rights attrocities n Iran, it will provide justification for such attacks in the name of "truth, justice, and the American (or Israeli) way".
While I agree that this is a risk, I don't agree with this strategy. I'm with Jesus on this one: 'The truth shall set you free." I feel the brutality of both the macro and the micro human rights violations should be screamed equally loudly. What is war after all but an en masse human rights violation? You can't prioritze in numbers because they're the same thing. so if you do, I feel you're selling out, and we all know where that will lead in our "brighter future". Okay,so that's how I feel, but I also feel this is affecting labor in particular in a very dangerous way. (This is not to say that there are not people here who give equal time to both geopolitics and human right;, still, discussion of labor is absent at this time of crisis, and using the search engine here, it seems it is only highlighted at certain times, such as when Osanloo became a kind of "celebrity").
My nagging suspicion is that, given my own Left's absorption with geopolitics, (which is by no means exclusive to the Iranian context), Labor falls between the cracks. if this Left of mine doesn't defend organized labor, why should people who are avowedly Capitalist (especially the center-right) be expected to do it for us without our encouragement, i.e. defend people who go around saying 'Workers of the world unite against the vile Capitalist masters', i.e. them? So of course this "center-right' of ours is going to focus on womens', journalists', Bahai rights, etc. As for the liberals and independents, why should they be expected to access sources which are hard to find (at least in English) when they figure the Left would be guiding them in this, ,since, after all, the Left is supposd to be closely affiliated with (and originally was one with) Labor?
So my real question is; Is it possible that my Left has let organized Labor fall between the cracks, and that it's unreasonable to expect others to have shouldered this burden without our leadership? And if I am right,, does that mean we are dong something that is wrong? As well as extremely dangerous To put it another way:
Have we on the "Left" thrown organized labor to the wolves by abandoning one kind of "striking Iran" to prevent another kind of "striking Iran"?
And if I'm right, is there anyone on this Left of mine who would care to step up to the plate on this one? And anyone else, as I'm sure you agree that saying "Workers of the world unite against capital", even vile capitalist masters, does not justify a beautiful young woman's getting 70 lashes, And that, if you think about it, if you worked long hours under the blazing sun of Khuzestan, doing back-breaking work every day without getting paid for three months, that you might be tempted to say it too.
And if I'm wrong, will someone please explain this silence.
(Checking out the two above websites, you will see how miserably the English lags behind the Persian--they don't have enough translators).
Coordinating Committee to Form Workers Organizations in Iran www.komitteyehamangi.com
Committee for the Defense of Haft Tapeh Workers (newly formed) www.komitedefa7.blogfa.com
Free Trade Union of Iranian Workers www.ettehade.com
Labour Start (a respected international news agency for labor) www.labourstart.org
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