Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Mansour Osanlou Abducted Again

The BBC has reported that the head of Tehran's transport workers' union, Mansour Osanlou, has been abducted inside Iran. According to his wife he was pulled from a bus by unidentified men on Tuesday evening. The Iranian government has so far refused to comment on the abduction.

This is not the first time that Osanlou has had a run-in with the authorities in Iran. Osanlou was first arrested by the authorities on 22 December 2005, alongside 11 other union officials, in connection with their peaceful trade union activities. On 25 December, members of the union staged a bus strike in solidarity with their colleagues and were promptly arrested. The following day, all those that had been detained by the authorities were released, except for Osanlou and six other members of the Union's executive board. Two days later, the six members were released, leaving Osanlou under Iranian custody. During this period of detention, Osanlou was refused access to a lawyer. He was then held in Evin Prison in Tehran, until his release on 9th August 2006 after payment of bail.

Just three months later, on 19 November, Osanlou was arrested outside his home by members of the security services. On 26 November, he appeared in court where no specific charges were outlined to him. Osanlou appeared without his lawyer present. After his arrest, he was once again detained in section 209 of Evin prison. During his detention, Osanlou was suffering from a serious eye complaint. Prior to his arrest by security services, he was wearing a bandage over his eye as the result of an operation to rectify the problem. It was believed that he had no access to any medical treatment during his detention, despite the seriousness of the condition. After meeting his lawyers on the 11 December, they claimed that:

....his understanding was that he had been arrested because of his trade union activities as well as his contacts with international organizations such as the ILO [International Labour Organization], UN and international labour organizations.

Osanlou was released in August last year and continued his trade union activities as normal. He was subject to continuous harassment by the authorities after his release as a result of his union work. On 8 November, Osanlou and nine other executive members of the union were detained in Tabriz whilst travelling to a conference 'Globalisation and Privatisation'. However, members of the state-run Islamic Labour Councils were free to travel unhindered.

Earlier this year, during the May Day demonstrations, numerous activists were detained and beaten by the authorities. During the demonstrations a small group broke away and started chanting anti-government slogans. Consequently, Intelligence Ministry officials attempted to detain Osanlou once more. On this occasion he managed to escape. Prior to these demonstrations he had been due to give a speech at the Islamic Society of Students about the problems faced by labour organisations. University officials cancelled the talk and it was given at the gates of the university instead.

Clearly, Osanlou is a target of the authorities in Iran. His continued detentions as a result of his trade union work is systematic of the way the Iranian authorities view the trade union movement. Their determination to undermine rights of assembly and the rights for works to organise exposes the true nature of the regime. One hopes that Osanlou is released promptly and that there is an end to his continued persecution. Furthermore, the Iranian regime should allow the work force to unionise and demonstrate freely and without hindrance. Until the regime reverses this trend, it will continue to be considered a state that refuses to acknowledge basic human rights.

Additional information courtesy of Amnesty International:

The Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company is said to have been founded in 1979 and resumed activities in 2004 after a 25-year ban. It is still not legally recognised.

Iran is a State Party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 22 (1) of which states: Everyone shall have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests. Article 26 of Iran’s Constitution states: The formation of parties, societies, political or professional associations … is permitted provided they do not violate the principles of independence, freedom, national unity, the criteria of Islam, or the basis of the Islamic republic. No one may be prevented from participating in the aforementioned groups, or be compelled to participate in them.