The workers from Heavy Equipment Production Company (HEPCO) in the southern Iranian city of Arak held their third consecutive day of protest on Tuesday, September 18, despite threats and attacks by Special Riot units of the Iranian regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The regime’s suppressive forces blocked all roads to the workers gathering to prevent others from joining the protesters, who are demanding the payment of several months unpaid wages and the privatization of the company that left the company in shambles.
The authorities had promised to resolve their demands, but the workers say they did not keep their promises. That's why workers blocked the north-south railroad and marched downtown, holding large banners asking for issues over the company’s ownership and shareholders to be settled.
On Sunday, riot police brutally attacked the workers, injuring 15 and arresting 30-40, as they held a peaceful gathering. Despite this vicious attack, HEPCO workers gathered outside the company building on Monday, while photos showed riot police standing at a distance ready to attack again, which led to the wounding of more protesters.
Maryam Rajavi, President-Elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) hailed the brave HEPCO workers for continuing their protests and strikes despite the “brutal” suppression by the mullahs’ regime. She urged the Iranian people, specifically young people to support the workers.
She also urged all workers’ unions, human rights, and workers’ rights defenders to condemn the mullahs’ suppression, support the demands of all Iranian workers, and call for the immediate release of all detained workers.
Iran News Wire wrote on Twitter: “This is a dying regime that can't even tolerate a workers' protest… This is a disgrace! These are Iranian workers who live in poverty when the regime squanders Iran's national wealth. International community MUST SPEAK OUT!... Kudos to the brave workers!”
This is not the first time that HEPCO workers have gone on strike in the past two years. In November 2018, 15 workers were each sentenced to a year of prison and 74 lashes for their protests.
Labor rights activists said that the problems at HEPCO began right after its privatization in 2017 with the loss of over 7,000 jobs.
Iranian laborers who hold protest rallies and strikes are routinely prosecuted and given hefty prison terms, with Amnesty International saying that “independent unions in Iran are banned, workers have few legal rights or protections, and union activists are regularly beaten, arrested, jailed and tortured”.
Iran’s Labor Code does not give citizens the right to form independent unions, despite Iran’s ratification of the UN’s International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and membership in the International Labor Organization.