Human Rights Watch has accused the Iranian government of increasingly violating workers’ rights to peaceful assembly and association.
In a report published a day before International Workers’ Day (May Day), the human rights organisation said that dozens of Iranian labour and independent trade union activists had been put behind bars for promoting workers’ rights in the country..
The group called on Iranian officials to end the crackdown and free labour rights advocates in anticipation of May Day.
HRW claims that the rights of workers’ rights have suffered a significant degree of repression during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (2005-present).
“Security forces have harassed and arbitrarily arrested an increasing number of striking workers, who are then subjected to politically motivated prosecutions and unfair trials,” it continued.
“Iranian workers are on the front lines of the struggle to demand such basic rights as freedom of assembly and association,” argues Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East director. “They are often the first victims of government crackdowns that aim to silence criticism.”
HRW went on to add that the authorities’ heavy-handed approach towards unionisation and labour rights activists had left workers without a voice to influence policy and working conditions.
It argued that unfair working arrangements had “severely” restricted Iranian workers’ benefits and provided little protection from summary firings by business owners.
“The situation is particularly dire for the most vulnerable workers: women, children and Afghan migrants,” it added. “The number of child workers under age 15 has also increased”.
The report stated that the increasing international sanctions imposed on Iran by the European Union and the United States over the nuclear programme had worsened the plight of workers.
“Regardless of sanctions or other causes of economic hardship in Iran, workers should have the right to organize, strike, and hold sit-ins, and speak out against government policies they consider harmful,” Whitson said.“The worsening crackdown on workers who try to exercise their rights is a flagrant violation of the Iranian government’s obligations to its people.”
The group also criticised Iran’s refusal to sign International Labour Organisation articles that protect the freedom of association and the right to organise.