19 May 2009
HE Dr Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Azerbaijan Intersection
Palestine Avenue
Tehran, Iran
Fax: +649.588.021.98

Re: Peaceful May Day Rallies and Arrest of Trade Unionists

Dear Mr. President

The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), on behalf of our affiliates and two million members, is writing to you once again to protest in the strongest possible terms the series of events which marred the May Day celebration in your country and to express our continued and serious concerns as to the deterioration in the situation of trade union and other fundamental human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran.

On the occasion of the 1st of May, a number of Iranian workers’ organisations had established the 2009 May Day Organising Committee. This Committee had organised a peaceful May Day rally in Laleh Park, Tehran, which was set to start at 5 pm. According to the information we have, more than 2,000 workers came to participate in the event.

Prior to the event, the Iranian security forces had undertaken serious attempts to prevent it from taking place by placing surveillance on workers and labour activists with constant harassment and intimidation.
Almost immediately after the start of the event, at 5.30 pm, the demonstrators were violently attacked by the police and assaulted with batons and tasers.

A large number of participants were cornered, beaten to the ground with batons, tear-gassed, punched, kicked and verbally abused. The police went on to arrest over 200 workers and other participants, including women’s organisations, university students, and allegedly even some passers-by, generally resorting to unnecessarily brutal force. Over 150 of those arrested were subsequently taken to Evin prison.

At another event in Tehran, organized by Metal workers, over 30 people were arrested and 25 of those were subsequently put in custody.

We also understand that on the 1st of May, six labour activists were arrested at the May Day event in the city of Sanandaj. According to our information they were released the day after, albeit on heavy bail (26 million toman). All six of them suffered bad treatment during their detention. Ms Shabbou and Ms Shiva were handcuffed and blindfolded throughout the whole of their custody. The ACTU fears that these six activists may face further charges for their participation in the May Day events.

The ACTU along with the international trade union movement, cannot stress enough how strongly we disagree with the course of events as described above. The workers in Tehran, as well as in Sanandaj, had requested permission for their rally well in advance, their legitimate and only intention being to peacefully celebrate Labour Day, as millions of their fellow workers in countries all over the world do. In no way can the events justify the violence used by your government’s security forces and the huge number of detainees.

We again point you to the fact that Iran is a longstanding member of the ILO and as a member is required to adhere to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work which guarantees the freedom of association and right to collective bargaining.

As the ongoing suppression and imprisonment of workers in your country to address injustices against them, such as better working conditions, low wages, and freedom of association – actions that promote a better working and living conditions do not pose a threat to the Iranian state, but rather aimed at the prosperity of the Iranian people and the country as a whole. It is the responsibility of your government to ensure the right and exercise of trade union rights without fear of any violence or reprisals.

The ACTU together with others in the international trade union movement will continue to monitor the situation of workers in Iran very closely, and will certainly not hesitate to make use of the available mechanisms at international level, or to once again mobilise the international trade union movement on behalf of our colleagues in Iran.

I urge you to take the necessary measures to ensure the immediate and safe release of all those arrested on May Day and to ensure respect the rights of workers in Iran.

Yours sincerely
Sharan Burrow