Monday, February 06, 2006

Bus Workers Go On Strike in Prison

Bahram Rafiee, Rooz Online:
Iran’s domestic media have been banned from publishing news on the government crackdown of the strike of bus drivers who again took to the streets in protest of their conditions. There are news reports that many arrests have followed the government clampdown and that those arrested had been transferred to the harsh 209-ward of the notorious Evin prison in northern Tehran. There are also reports that the prisoners have gone on a hunger strike to protest their imprisonment.

Khedmat, an internet news site close to hardline president Ahmadinejad has accused the workers of institutional connections with local and international groups! This is a first Ahmadinejad’s government. No workers had been treated like this until now. But so uncomfortable and panicky is the government over these strikes that it has offered Rials 450,000, which is considered a relatively large sum of money to striking workers who break their strike and return to work. READ MORE

The bus drivers syndicate had called for a strike last Saturday. So while workers were gathering to protest their work conditions, security agents ambushed them right at their houses and arrested more than 60 members of their syndicate, which included their wives and children. Security and police forces attacked and beat up the strikers soon after it began. Those arrested were immediately taken to prison. According to the police, some 50 to 60 strikers had been detained. Police officials claimed that the strikers were not peaceful marchers but had actually engaged in stone throwing at buses that had not joined them in their strike and who continued to work.

But the attack on the strikers seems to have only brought more sympathy from other drivers or workers and even prisoners. It is reported that some 500 imprisoned workers went on a hunger strike when they heard that the bus drivers had been attacked and arrested. In addition, workers of one of the government’s largest employers, Iran Khodro which manufacturers a number of locally assembled automobiles, issued a statement of support for the bus drivers and their demands.

In a coordinated move, the official press in Iran recently called the worker's strike a political plot and accused its participants and organizers of being connected to the country’s enemies outside. Some foreign publications in the capital have carried stories about other factory workers joining the bus drivers strike. Strikes of this kind in the past had been brutally suppressed by security forces.
So why is the mainstream media ignoring this story?