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Petition Tag - labor activist
Afshin Osanloo is prison of conscience and brother to Mansour Osanloo, President of the Tehran Bus Workers' Union (Vahed Syndicate), who has also been prosecuted and imprisoned for his union-related activities.
Security forces arrested Afshin Osanloo in the main Tehran bus terminal in December 2010 without any specified charges. He spent three months inside Evin Prison's Security Ward 209 without his family's knowledge. He was sentenced to five years in prison in May 2011 on charges of "acting against national security" and "propagating against the state" without access to a lawyer, and his sentence was upheld by an appeals court.
On Wednesday, June 6, 2012 Afshin Osanloo was abruptly transferred to the Special Security Ward of Rajaee Shahr Prison on orders from Evin Prison's Disciplinary Council and without any explanation. Prior to his abrupt transfer, Osanloo had been serving a five-year prison term at Evin Prison.
Describing his torture at the hands of Islamic Republic regime henchmen, Afshin Osanloo issued the following appeal to the world community on August 7, 2012 from the horrible Rajai Shahr Prison:
"I am Afshin Osanloo of the labor movement in Iran; I drive a transport truck between cities and am now in Gohardasht (Rajaei Shahr) prison in Iran. In the autumn of 2010, while resting in the dormitory for drivers in the passenger terminal, I was arrested by armed persons wearing casual clothing – not uniforms – and was taken to Section 209 of Evin prison. For five months I was kept in solitary confinement and was interrogated and tortured. The tortures included beatings of the soles of my feet with cables; forcing me to run on the beaten feet which were covered in sores and cuts; gross verbal insults and swearing; week-long interrogations, 18 hours at a time, while being beaten by a group of men which resulted in my ribs and some teeth being broken. During these five months, my family had no information about me whatsoever, and their inquiries were not answered. I was not even permitted one phone call to my elderly mother who also was suffering from my brother’s imprisonment (Mansour Osanloo, Chairman of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company).
"I am married and have two sons. When I first started my family, I began working at the Construction Base at Khatam, in the isolated, war-torn provinces of Southern Iran on important projects in the name of a driver for 2 years. The work was hard labor, such as building dirt roads through the Karkhe River, making docks out of rocks in the Port of Mahshahr, and building water pipes from the Karkhe River all the way to Hamideh in Ahwaz. The love for my country helped me endure being so far away from my family, and I dismissed the sorrow.
"After 2 years, all the drivers, whether they were temporary hires or contract workers, were let go. In 1997, I was hired by the bus Company of Tehran and worked 12 hour shifts both during the day and night on the busiest routes in the city. During the time that I worked at the unit, along with my most experienced and truly sincere co-workers, we tried to improve and modernize our working conditions and tried to prevent corruption at the expense of being humiliated and ridiculed by management and bosses from different sectors and regions and even the representatives of the Islamic Labor Council. Nevertheless, we pursued our outstanding arrears, bonuses, uniforms, and prevention of hard, harmful and unsafe labor, along with abolishment of temporary contracts, some of which had lasted 4-5 years.
"Although we were not successful in many issues, and were seen as greedy, ungrateful workers by the higher-ups, we still tried in any way we could. We were threatened with the loss of our jobs by the management.
"Unfortunately, in 2001, while I was transferring passengers during my shift at work, I had an accident that sadly caused the death of another person. I asked my company’s insurance for assistance in the matter but after some talks between the insurance company and the family of the deceased, the sum I was asked to pay was changed from 10 million to 18 million Toumans (Iranian currency). The insurance company from work was deemed legally exempt and not responsible.
"My complaints to the Department of Labor were of no use until the bosses of the company agreed to pay the entire sum, conditional on my resignation. And since I did not have such a large sum of money I was forced to resign, which caused me to lose the 4 years of seniority and experience I had in the field, not to mention the years of enduring hard labor and harsh conditions. This also dealt a large blow to my family. My wife, who was pregnant at the time, suffered from a nervous breakdown. From that time onwards, I was busy working in Transportation and Shipping. The fact that this sector was owned privately, along with the lack of strong, independent unions and late paychecks, made it hard for the drivers to make ends meet, and they suffered from so many different work-related issues. As a result, all of us were communicating about how to better our work situation.
"I had four rules in my life for myself which I have lived by all my life: I was proud of my work, I tried to respect all my peers, I loved my country and its people and I served society by bringing up my children well so that they could be useful.
"After one year of being in prison in sections 209 and 380, without knowing my fate, I was sentenced to 5 years in prison by Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court, led by Judge Salavati (The Hanging Judge). In just a few minutes I was accused of being “a threat to national security” and was denied the right to be represented by a lawyer. I objected to the proceedings, but there was no way at all for me or my family to review or even see my file or my charges.
"I was sentenced on baseless accusations and charges to five years in prison, two of which I have already served. What did I do against national security? I had no political affiliations and did not belong to any organizations or groups and all my actions were legal and had to do with trade workers. The only crime I committed was pursuing workers’ rights and unions, and arresting us is not going to stop us from wanting our rights. It is necessary to create legitimate, independent labor unions for legal rights that are in accordance with the Ministry of Labor.
"And to provide job security, improved wages commensurate with the inflation rate, to prevent late payment of salary, permanent contracts between worker and employer, payment of social security by the government, insurance coverage for workers and to stop privatization of the transportation and shipping trade which are all privately owned in order to stop employers from taking advantage of the workers. If such issues are pursued by the police force and the Ministry of Transportation, it will allow the trade business to run in accordance with the law. If these laws are implemented, it will benefit public safety and increase productivity, and the industry as a whole will be more profitable. My crime and that of all others like me are the same and repetitive on this issue.
"These issues and problems are discussed among drivers and workers, and even amongst some honest and competent transport managers who work for the industry.
"These issues should be first addressed to The International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) and also the International Labor Organization (ILO), who have always been sympathetic and have supported their brothers all across the world, and who understand our pain and suffering. We want them to take this issue to the international bodies and communities and also to the human rights organizations. We want all other workers, especially those in transportation, to hear how I and so many other workers have been unfairly and illegally convicted. We want you to tell them how in our country, we have no labor or human rights, and how unjust and illegal it all is, and how the smallest complaint about our working conditions causes us to be severely tortured and imprisoned."
In September, he along with three other prisoners of conscience being held in the horrible Rajai Shahr prison-- Reza Sharifi Bokani (Kurdish human rights activist) and Khalid Hardani (Ahwazi Arab activist)--signed an open appeal to UN General Secretary Ban ki-Moon asking him, among other considerations, to understand the following about conditions in Iran:
"The Islamic Republic of Iran has never allowed any opposition political party, even peaceful ones, has never allowed political activism and the leaders and members of opposition political parties have been severely tortured, detained and executed....
"In this country, poverty, inflation, unemployment, discrimination and corruption are rife. Every year, thousands of workers have lost their jobs, factories have closed and companies have gone bankrupt. Iranian people are forced to accept and tolerate the economic effects of a corrupt totalitarian government, mismanagement and international sanctions against the government. And nobody is allowed to criticise corruption because they are oppressed."
On Friday, June 15, 2012, about 60 members of the "Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organizations" were arrested by the agents of the Intelligence Ministry after they raided a house in city of Karaj while an annual meeting of the coordinating committee was underway.
Participants in the meeting were severely beaten by the security agents and transferred to Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj. The majority of detainees were released on June 16th with the exception of two women and seven men who have been detained incommunicado.
Their colleagues and family members are seriously concerned about their safety.
UPDATE APRIL 22, 2013: BEHNAM EBRAHIMZADEH, HAD ONLY A SHORT PRISON FURLOUGH TO VISIT HIS SON NIMA, WHO HAS CANCER. ON BEING FORCED TO RETURN TO PRISON AT SUCH A CRITICAL TIME, HE HAS ISSUED THE FOLLOWING APPEAL: "HOW CAN I GO BACK TO PRISON KNOWING THAT MY CHILD IS VERY ILL--AND THAT THIS INHUMANE INATTENTION TO A VERY SICK CHILD MAY EVEN SHORTEN HIS LIFE?!"
UPDATE: JANUARY 14, 2013 BEHNAM EBRAHIMZADEH, SITTING IN PRISON, HAS JUST FOUND OUT THAT HIS 13-YEAR-OLD SON, HIS BELOVED NIMA, IS IN A HOSPITAL FOR CHILDREN WITH CANCER. HE NEEDS TO GET OUT OF PRISON NOW! PLEASE SEE HIS APPEAL BELOW:
don’t know when it was, maybe eight to nine days ago, when I heard that my only child, my 13-year old Nima, already overcome by the pain of separation from his father and all kinds of deprivation, has been admitted to Mahak Hospital, a hospital for children with cancer; a bitter experience and a shocking moment, which have pierced deep into my soul.
I don’t know about the condition of my darling child. My wife doesn’t clearly tell me, but she hopes that I would soon be given leave to come and see them. I have therefore asked for leave, which if granted would certainly have a great impact on me and my sick child. This is the only moment in the life of a father, which he doesn’t want to lose under any circumstances. So, thanks to my friends, I have come up with a property surety, and like in the past when I have asked for things, I have been given a favourable answer. But maybe this time too it will turn out to be just words.
Under these circumstances, with thousands of thoughts in my mind about my son Nima, remembering the empty promises of those in charge has turned my suffering into an excruciating pain. I have to be at the side of my sick child. This is my right. I am a political prisoner, whose anguish over his son’s illness has made everything look dark. There are several courses of action open to me, one of which is to go on a dry hunger strike. Maybe I’ll get an answer that way.
I want to choose patience and endurance, while resisting and putting pressure; however, anything can happen. First, deprivation from food, leave, proper visits, telephone, medical care, etc., and now deprivation from the right to be at the side of my sick child is what is going to break me down.
I insist on my demand for leave to visit my child; at the same time, I appeal to everyone to support the rights of my child and to help his recovery. Who would have thought that someone who for years has fought for children’s and workers’ rights, would one day be in prison for his beliefs and defence of children, and then hear that groups of compassionate people, friends and comrades are visiting his sick child, but he himself isn’t able to stroke the feverish head of his child?
I will defy and resist, as I have done up to now, but who is answerable for all this injustice and suffering? Who is responsible for the condition that my child Nima is in?
I have hope in the strong and kind hands of the doctors and nurses, hope in the support of friends, comrades, colleagues and the good and caring people of the country. I am most grateful to all those who over these past days have been asking about my child and who have visited my family and son.
I thank all the doctors and nurses of Mahak Hospital and all those who have been helping to aid the recovery of my son. In the hope of a speedy recovery for my son Nima Ebrahimzadeh and all sick children.
Behnam (As’ad) Ebrahimzadeh
Ward 35, Evin Prison
Behnam Ebrahimzadeh, a worker at a polyethylene pipe-manufacturing factory in the outskirts of Tehran, is a member of the Follow Up Committee to Set Up Free Trade Associations and a children’s rights defender.
He reportedly suffered two broken ribs as a result of beatings during his arrest in June 2010, and is currently serving a five-year prison sentence. Behnam Ebrahimzadeh was initially sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment in December 2010 on national security charges.
This was overturned by the Supreme Court, and after a retrial he was sentenced to five years in prison after conviction of “gathering and colluding with intent to harm state security”, apparently in connection with his trade unionist activities on behalf of the Follow Up Committee to Set up Free Trade Associations. This sentence was upheld on appeal in October 2011.
Bahman Ebrahimzadeh, labor activist, stood trial for the second time after spending more than a year in prison. During the second trial, Judge Moqayaseh presided over the Revolutionary Court, Branch 28.
According to a report by the Committee of Human Rights Reporters, Bahman Ebrahimzadeh was initially tried by the Revolutionary Court, Branch 15, and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Following his request for appeal and the Supreme Court’s approval, he was tried again. It has been reported that Bahman Ebrahimzadeh’s attorney is optimistic about the second trial and hopeful that his client will receive a lighter sentence.
Bahman Ebrahimzadeh is also an advocate against child labor and has supported the Society to Defend Child Laborers and Street Children. He was arrested in June 2010 and was locked up in one of the solitary confinements in Evin Prison’s ward 2A. Bahman Ebrahimzadeh has been denied furlough since then.