Several workers in a sugarcane complex in the Southwest of Iran have been arrested or summoned for questioning following their protests against the management and state-mediated privatization of the company.

From left to right: Ali Nejati, Esmail Bakhshi and Sepideh Gholiyan have all been arrested for protesting state-mediated privatization of Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane workers and nonpayment of their wages.

On Sunday, June 16, the Independent Telegram Channel of Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane Workers published the list of dozens of Haft-Tappeh workers and their supporters who have been summoned by the Iranian Judiciary.

Labor activists say that at least 31 Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane Workers have been arrested following their protests against the management and privatization. Nine labor activists and 60 other workers have also been arrested, summoned or jailed by security forces in recent months, based on the announcement of the worker’s Telegram channel.

Many workers in Iran are suffering from delayed payments or nonpayment of wages and benefits due to policies of state-mediated privatization via which the state rids itself of responsibilities towards the workers by selling industrial units to private owners at a fraction of the actual price.

State-mediated privatization has been the main issue of many labor protests in the past two years in Iran.

Esmail Bakhshi, Sepideh Gholian- a 23-year female labor rights activist and citizen journalist – were among those who were arrested twice for protesting state-mediated privatization in Iran and related to Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane Complex.

Esmail Bakhshi, one of the workers’ representatives in Haft-Tappeh Independent Labor Union, served as the public face of the protests. The protests led to a wave of arrests and the Iranian government launched a major crackdown on the labor rights activists and workers.

Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane labor activists have recently submitted a formal complaint to the International Labor Organization (ILO) detailing the arrests and crackdown on labor activists and workers of Haft-Tappeh Sugarcane complex.

“In recent months, dozens of Haft-Tappeh’s workers have been arrested, summoned and threatened or temporarily released on bail solely because of a rally to protest. There are over fifty names,” Haft-Tappeh workers wrote in a letter to the ILO.

In this letter, they have specifically mentioned the cases of Esmail Bakhshi, Sepideh Gholiyan, and Ali Nejati and the forced confessions of the three which was broadcasted from state media under the pretext of a documentary:

“Under physical and psychological pressure from the Ministry of Intelligence Office of Ahwaz, Esmail Bakhshi, Ali Nejati, and Sepideh Gholiyan were forced to make false confessions in front of the camera during their first detentions. Security forces, by assembling a ridiculous documentary movie of various confessions and connecting it to all sorts of incidental events and imaginative scenarios, tried to picture them as dangerous individuals. However, this film was condemned by the public.”

The Haft-Tappeh workers have not been paid their wages frequently in recent months; therefore, since October 2018, the workers have been protesting in the southern cities of Shush and Ahvaz.

Iran glorifies the work of Iranian Privatization Organization (IPO), a government agency working under the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Finance and established in April 2001 in order to facilitate the transfer the ownership rights of some companies from the government to the private sector. However, through IPO the government transfers bankrupt institutions to the private sector, ridding itself of the burden of paying past due wages and debts to the workers.