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An Iranian Solidarity?

Monday, July 30, 2007

In this week's Rights & Wrongs, WPR contributor Juliette Terzieff reports on another detention in Iran. This time it's not an Iranian-American, but an Iranian labor leader:

WORLD'S UNIONS RALLY FOR IRANIAN LABOR LEADER -- Labor unions from around the world have joined forces with human rights groups to protest the detention of Mansour Osanloo, head of the Union of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, who was reportedly abducted as he stepped off a bus on July 10.

Osanloo had previously been held in Tehran's Evin for most of 2006 for organizing a bus driver walkout in December 2005. The union had planned a subsequent protest for January 2006, but Iranian authorities preemptively arrested hundreds of drivers, including Osanloo and other organizers. Iranian authorities do not recognize the union's existence and have made no comment on his recent detention.

The International Transport Worker's Federation, International Trade Union Confederation, Canada's National Union of Public and General Employees, and the United States' AFL-CIO are among the unions throwing their weight behind efforts to secure Osanloo's release.

"Labor rights are human rights. These violations of [International Labour Organization] conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights deserve the condemnation of the entire world," the Canadian union's president, James Clancey, said July 26.

Osanloo proved his leadership capabilities when in 2004 he created one of Iran's first independent trade unions since the 1979 revolution. "All those who know Osanloo know that he is a voice for wisdom, moderation and peaceful change in a society ridden by potentially explosive contradictions," 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.

To read the rest of this week's Rights & Wrongs, click here, and go here to read past editions.

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