Skip to comments.Unions rally to free Iran's 'Lech Walesa'
Posted on 07/21/2007 7:07:21 PM PDT by nuconvert
Unions rally to free Iran's 'Lech Walesa'
By Colin Freeman
Iran has sparked a storm of protest from trade unionists around the world after imprisoning a bus driver known as the Lech Walesa of the Islamic Republic.
Mansour Osanloo, who leads a 17,000-strong bus workers' union, was abducted on the streets of Teheran on July 10 by an unidentified gang, thought to have been secret policemen. He had just returned from a trip to Europe, including Britain, where he met officials from the London-based International Transport Workers' Federation (ITWF) to discuss the government harassment his members were suffering.
Now he is languishing on unspecified charges in Teheran's notorious Evin Prison - described as the "Islamic Alcatraz" - on the orders of Saeed Mortazavi, a hardline judge accused of presiding over numerous human rights abuses and illegal detentions.
Mr Osanloo's imprisonment comes as part of a clampdown on dissidents by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's ultra-conservative government, in which scores of pro-democracy activists and -academics have been arrested over the past five months.
Unlike some of his fellow political prisoners, Mr Osanloo, 48, has largely restricted his activities to campaigning for better working conditions for his union members, demanding increases in their wages and better protection against Teheran's appalling smog.
He has insisted: "All we are asking is for Iranian workers to be treated as free human beings, not as slaves."
Even that, however, has invited the ire of Iran's mullahs, for whom any independent organisation with a large membership poses a potential threat similar to Solidarity, the Polish shipyard workers' union led by Mr Walesa, which opened the first major cracks in communism in the early Eighties
In Brussels, Mr Osanloo described the intimidation which union members had faced, with some members having been arrested 10 or more times, and family members, including children, being beaten, detained and subjected to inhumane treatment.
Asked how he coped with arrests and harassment, he replied: "We decided it is better to die than to live like this."
The international union, which represents nearly 5 million transport workers in 148 countries, has now written a letter to Mr Ahmadinejad's office, urging him to free Mr Osanloo immediately.
A spokesman for the ITWF, Sam Dawson, said: "Mr Osanloo has pushed to create an independent and democratic trade union in Iran, and that appears to be something that the regime is not happy with.
"His organisation is not against the Iranian state or a threat in any way. It is open, popular and transparent. We are hoping that the Iranian government will be amenable to outside pressure."
Mr Osanloo was on his way home from work when the bus in which he was a passenger was pulled over by a carload of men, some allegedly armed with clubs and knuckle-dusters. They dragged him into their vehicle, telling passers-by who tried to intervene that he was a "hoodlum and a thug" who was wanted by the police. Witnesses said he was beaten up during the abduction, even after he had stopped trying to fight off his attackers.
His abductors carried no identification, but drove a Peugeot car of a kind commonly used by the security services. Iranian authorities at first denied all knowledge of his arrest, and only admitted that he was being held after 48 hours of fraught inquiries by family and friends.
As yet no charges against him have been specified, but Mr Dawson said the court had indicated he would spend at least two months in prison.
Mr Osanloo formed the Syndicate of Workers of Teheran and Suburbs Bus Company (Sherkat-e Vahed) in 2003, at the height of the reformist reign of President Mohammad Khatami.
However, Mr Osanloo has been unable to avoid becoming embroiled in some of the most sensitive issues in Iranian politics. In 2005, his staff brought Teheran's public transport network to a standstill in protest at a newly introduced rule that tried to segregate female passengers to the back of each bus.
Some religious hardliners are theologically opposed to the concept of a union, arguing that the separation of bosses and workers is a divisive Western approach which Islam should discourage.
Since organising strikes in 2005, he has been arrested several times and also beaten up by members of the basij, the irregular militia deployed to harass enemies of the regime. On one occasion he suffered a deep knife cut to the tongue, intended as a warning that he should keep quiet. He is no stranger to a prison cell, having spent eight months in prison from December 2005 and a month after being arrested last November.
David Cockroft, the general secretary of the ITWF, said: "The Iranian authorities, who have persecuted this valiant man for so long, must explain what charge Mansour is held on or release him. While they're struggling with that idea, the least they can do is allow him access to his family, a lawyer and a doctor."
The Iranian Embassy in London did not respond to requests for comment.
Here we go again. Conservative is bad. In fairness, there is an off chance possibility that the word is used correctly. Lech Walesa was a "progressive" in promoting freedom against a "conservative" communist oppressor.
I’m confused, if the Iranian theocracy is ultra-conservative, what was the Shah then? And the liberals and leftys always rave support of the glorious Iranian revolution of the 70s. So are they supporting ultra-conservatives now or is it possible that history is being revised by the liberal media??? They used to call it lying once upon a time.
Any second I’m expecting the UAW, Teamsters, NEA, AFL-CIO, and other unions to raise their voices in solidarity with this valiant man who only wants the workers of Iran to enjoy the same rights....
Shoulda bombed Iran in ‘79 bump.
Why isn’t this man’s picture and his union logo on t-shirts, fliers and web pages throughout the world? Too much attention to Che to warrant celebrating a real freedom fighter, I guess.
Saeed Mortazavi = Roland Freisler
I think that’s a good comparison
What they need are some real trade unionists...
Hey! Youse! Call Guido and Luigi. Tell 'em to bring their lead pipes. Wese gonna break some kneecaps...
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