Osanloohad previously been held in Tehran’s Evin for most of 2006 fororganizing a bus driver walkout in December 2005. The union had planneda subsequent protest for January 2006, but Iranian authoritiespreemptively arrested hundreds of drivers, including Osanloo and otherorganizers. Iranian authorities do not recognize the union’s existenceand have made no comment on his recent detention.
TheInternational Transport Worker’s Federation, International Trade UnionConfederation, Canada’s National Union of Public and General Employees,and the United States’ AFL-CIO are among the unions throwing theirweight behind efforts to secure Osanloo’s release.
“Laborrights are human rights. These violations of [International LabourOrganization] conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rightsdeserve the condemnation of the entire world,” the Canadian union’spresident, James Clancey, said July 26.
Osanlooproved his leadership capabilities when in 2004 he created one ofIran’s first independent trade unions since the 1979 revolution. “Allthose who know Osanloo know that he is a voice for wisdom, moderationand peaceful change in a society ridden by potentially explosivecontradictions,” the Saudi English newspaper, Arab News, said in a recent editorial. “To silence that voice would be a tragic loss for anyone interested in Iran’s future.”
Osanloo is far from the first labor leader to threaten an authoritarian government. Because communist ideology made particular claims about the system’s benefits for workers, Communist governments were of course particularly vulnerable to labor movements, such as Poland’s Solidarity under Lech Walesa, that opposed them and in their opposition exposed the reality of the proletariat’s well-being under communism.
In the United States, the success of labor leaders like George Meaney in preventing the takeover of the labor movement by communist sympathizers and party members helped maintain American unity during the Cold War.
It’s unclear (to us at least: if anyone has any insight on this subject, drop us a line) the role that labor movements might play in opposing the regime of the Islamic Republic. But Osanloo’s detention would seem to indicate the government of Iran views him as a threat.