Written by Amir Taghati
Seven workers at the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Mill, in Iran’s south-western Khuzestan province, were sentenced to an eight-month suspended prison sentence and thirty lashes for exercising their rights to peaceful protest over the non-payment of wages and demanding better working conditions.
The workers, who were not identified, were tried and sentenced by the 102nd Branch of the regime’s Criminal Court in Shush on Tuesday.
Fourteen other factory workers stood trial on Wednesday, accused of “disrupting public order by leading and being present in illegal gatherings and preventing the company’s activities.”
The 14 workers responded to their charges in court by demanding their two-month overdue wages, solution for labour contract problems, and the creation of a plan for jobs classification.
The Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Syndicate said workers have also been summoned for charges such as “publishing messages on the internet.” They said the workers are being prosecuted for attending a one-hour protest on May 9.
In November 2018, Haft Tappeh workers held various protests for over 20 consecutive days related to unpaid wages and other grievances that sprang up after the company was privatized.
The complaints were not addressed and Iranian authorities began to arrest workers, with at least two subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in detention.
In mid-August 2018, some 500 workers protested over three months’ unpaid wages. Riot police attacked the workers with tear gas and beat them. Five workers were also detained but later released after being charged with “disrupting order”.
Now, the right of the Iranian people to strike and protest is enshrined in Articles 8 and 21 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Iran is a party. The Covenant also includes a ban on torture or other inhumane and degrading treatment.
This is not the first time that Iran sentenced protesting workers to prison terms and flogging. In October 2018, 15 workers from the Heavy Equipment Production Company (HEPCO) were convicted on charges including “disrupting public order” for going on strike in protest at unpaid wages. They were sentenced to 12-30 months in prison and 74 lashes each.
At least 100 Haft Tappeh workers have been summoned or detained only for speaking out and demanding their rights.