Mansour Osanloo, who heads the Tehran bus workers’ union, was thrown into the infamous Evin prison for the third time on July 10, after a highly successful European trip on which he tried to inform his Western trade-union brothers of the mounting repression against Iranian workers. During his previous incarcerations, Osanloo had been brutally tortured. Films were distributed showing bruises on his body, and his tongue had been slit.
One of Osanloo’s fellow union organizers, Mahmoud Salehi of the Saqez Bakery Workers’ Association, has been jailed in the city of Sanandaj (Kurdistan Province), where he is said to be in serious medical difficulties.
The International Trade Union Confederation and the International Transport Workers’ Federation have appropriately called for pickets, protests, and letter-writing campaigns on Thursday (marking the date on which Osanloo was released a year ago, following international demonstrations on his behalf) demanding the release of these two brave men. So far as I know, nobody is planning to demonstrate for them in this country, and certainly — as Michael Rubin reminds us daily — the American government has not said a word on their behalf, even though it would seem that the State Department is obliged to do so.
Amir Taheri has well explained the regime’s fear of Iranian workers, who have staged a dozen major strikes and nearly fifty protest demonstrations in less than half a year, and on May Day tens of thousands of workers marched all over Iran, in at least nineteen cities, even though they knew they would be treated harshly. Taheri reports that, according to the head of the Contractual Workers’ Union, more than 25,000 members have been fired in the last four months, and more than 1,000 workers are being purged every single day. This is part of the mullahs’ vicious campaign against every possible source of open dissent against the regime. As you would expect in such circumstances, more and more workers are dying in “accidents,” some of which are not at all accidental, but cover-ups of assassinations.
We shall see whether Western workers’ organizations are capable of once again demonstrating real solidarity with their Iranian brothers and sisters. A year ago there was sufficient energy to shame the mullahs into releasing Osanloo, and then permitting him to travel abroad, where he exposed their cruelty. The regime is in the midst of a wave of repression that has reminded Iran watchers of the worst bloodletting during the early years of the Islamic Republic, and the country’s leaders will be extremely reluctant to back down. The dreadful campaign extends from brutality against workers, teachers and journalists to arrests and torture of students and women.
These are the people with whom so many American — and the overwhelming majority of European — pundits and “statesmen” want us to negotiate. This hymn of appeasement has taken its toll on Western leaders, not one of whom speaks out against the daily brutality. Italy, in one of those exceptions that eloquently proves the rule, has gotten into a bit of a tiff with the Iranians over the near-epidemic of public executions, deploring the use of the death penalty in any circumstance. But then the Italians lambaste us as well, demonstrating a singular inability to distinguish between legal procedures in the United States and the Islamic Republic.
If the West had the courage of its past convictions, every leader would denounce the terror in Iran, and every trade unionist would be shouting in front of Iranian embassies.
Instead, we have near-total silence. And the hell of it is that this meek acquiescence to the evils practiced by the mullahs, instead of supporting the Iranian people who are feistier than ever in their challenges to the regime, makes it increasingly likely that there will soon be full-fledged war. Or does the West intend to acquiesce when Iran proclaims it possesses nuclear weapons, which it intends to use against us and our friends?
The journalists who run the political debates might ask such questions of the candidates.