Amnesty International has called on the Islamic Republic to recognize independent labour unions and end the crackdown on labour activists.

In a statement realeased June 10, Amnesty International accused Iran of persecuting labour activists “who are courageously resisting repeated arrests, beatings, unfair trials and imprisonment.”

Malcom Smart, Amnesty International’s director for Middle East and North Africa, says: “Independent trade unionists have been made to pay a heavy price by a government that has shown itself increasingly intolerant of dissent.” He adds: “The harassment and persecution they face smacks of a desperate government attempt to stave off social unrest that could arise from new hikes in the costs of fuel and power which Iranians are now facing.”

Shane Enright, Amnesty’s global trade union adviser, maintains that the Iranian government appears to be determined to destroy all existing trade unions and stop the formation of any new ones. Enright emphasizes that Iran’s actions show “gross contempt for its international obligations [as a member of the International Labour Organization] and for the labour rights of its own people.”

Amnesty International notes that in the aftermath of Iran’s 2009 election protests, several members of the banned Vahed Bus Drivers Union were re-arrested. In 2006, after the union organized a strike, 1,000 of its members and their families were targeted by security forces for violent attacks.

Mansoru Onsaloo, the head of the Vahed Bus Drivers Union, was incarcerated in 2007 at RejaiShahr Prison and kept under dire conditions. Only recently was he granted temporary release on bail.

Shane Enright said: “We greatly welcome Mansour Osanloo’s release, but he should never have been jailed in the first place. His release must be made unconditional, and other trade unionists who are prisoners of conscience must be freed immediately. The Iranian authorities must end, once and for all, their persecution, harassment and imprisonment of trade unionists simply because of their efforts to uphold workers’ rights enshrined in International Labour Organization conventions.”

Amnesty International also notes the persecution of union members at the Haft-Tapeh sugarcane-processing company in southwestern Iran. as well as a clampdown on the banned Iran Teachers’ Trade Association.

Dominique Marlet of Education International, the global federation of education unions, said: “The Iran Teachers’ Trade Association members have told us that they will not be defeated by this extreme government intimidation, but that they need solidarity from ordinary teachers like them around the world in their struggle for rights.”

On Thursday Iranians gathered in front of United Nations headquarters in Geneva calling for the release of detained labour activists in Iran and a commitment to labour rights by the Iranian authorities.