- Posted October 7, 2012 by
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A letter from AFSHIN OSANLOO, labor activist, from prison
To: All unions
Re: Jailed worker Afshin Osanloo (brother of Mansour Osanloo)
We do not need to introduce Mansour Osanloo to you. Mansour, an Iranian trade union activist, fought tirelessly trying to improve the appalling working conditions of bus drivers in Iran, nor do we need to explain how the situation is for many workers in Iran. Harassment, threats and fear of losing their jobs forces most people to remain silent. Those who do dare to speak up against unfairness are quickly silenced.
However, despite the regime’s efforts to keep the outside world out, people in Iran still manage to send news out. Over and over again we hear about how union leaders and members, are put through sham courts, charged for “acting against national security” and sentenced to years in prison where torture becomes a daily routine. Despite the risks, Mansour continued fighting for what he believed in and for this he spent almost four years in prison, under horrendous conditions. Although the situation seemed hopeless, Mansour was finally freed earlier this year.
We should be celebrating this great victory but this is not possible since Mansour’s brother is also in prison, purely for following the same steps of his brother and trying to improve the dreadful working conditions that he was surrounded by.
Attached is a letter we received from Afshin Osanloo (translated by Shadi Paveh, CFPPI-Public Relations) which gives more information about his, and many other workers’, situation in Iran right now.
We fear that if immediate action is not taken, Afshin’s situation will get worse, just as it has for so many other unionists in Iran. On behalf of Afshin we are asking ITF, ILO and all other unions to once again use their power to come together and put pressure on the regime in Iran to release Afshin whose only “crime” has been to fight for his and his colleagues basic rights.
The regime in Iran might be able to keep a single organisation out but no walls can withstand the force of the international trade union community.
Should you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time. We look forward hearing from you.
Spokesperson- Campaign to Free Political Prisoners in Iran (CFPPI)
Tel: +44(0) 7572356661 Email: email@example.com
Coordinator -Free Them Now! Campaign to Free Jailed Workers in Iran
Tel: +44(0) 7779 898968 Email: Shahla_daneshfar@yahoo.com
A letter from AFSHIN OSANLOO, labor activist, from prison
I am Afshin Osanloo of the labor movement in Iran; I drive a transport truck between cities and am now in Gohardasht (Rajai Shahr) prison in Iran. In autumn of 2010, while resting in the dormitory for drivers in the passenger terminal, I was arrested by armed persons wearing casual clothing and 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, weeklong interrogations-18 hours at a time, being beaten by a group of men which resulted in my ribs and some teeth to be 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 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 Karkhe River all the way to Hamide 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/ridiculed by management and bosses from different sectors and regions and even the representatives of the Islamic Labor Council, we still pursued our outstanding arrears, bonuses, uniforms, 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 Tomans (Iranian currency). And the insurance company from work was 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 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 the hard labor and the 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, loved my country and its people and served the society by bringing up my children well so that they could be useful.
After one year of being in prison without knowing my fate in sections 209 and 380, I was sentenced to 5 years in prison by branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court led by Judge Salevati (The Hanging Judge). In just a few minutes I was accused of being “a national threat to security” and was not given the right to be represented by a lawyer. I objected to the proceedings but there was no way at all for myself or my family to review or even see my file or my charges.
I was sentenced on baseless accusations and charges to five years, 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 privat