Attempt to suppress growing social movements

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Human Rights Watch – (Beirut) – Iranian authorities arrested several prominent activists on baseless charges amid ongoing union strikes and protests against rising prices since May 6, 2022, in dozens of small towns, Human Rights Watch said today. today. Among those arrested are a prominent sociologist and four workers’ rights activists.

Information bodies close to the intelligence apparatus having accused activists detained for having contact with suspected foreign actors, without providing any evidence of alleged wrongdoing. On May 11, the Ministry of Intelligence issued a statement claiming he had arrested two European citizens who he said had met with teachers’ union activists and “intended to abuse the demands of unions and other groups in society”.

“The arrests of prominent members of civil society in Iran based on baseless accusations of malicious foreign interference is another desperate attempt to silence support for growing grassroots social movements in the country,” said Tara Sepehri Far, senior Iran researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Instead of looking to civil society to help it understand and respond to social issues, the Iranian government treats them as an inherent threat.”

According to the Human Rights Activists news agency (HRAN), an independent human rights monitoring agency, since May 6, in at least 19 towns and villages, people are reunited to protest news of rising prices for essential goods in the coming months. Members of parliament reportedly said two people had been killed during the protests. Unconfirmed sources report higher numbers. Human Rights Watch was unable to confirm this information.

On May 9, authorities arrested trade unionists Anisha Assadollahi and Keyvan Mohtadi after raiding their homes, HRANA reported. On May 12, the Union of Workers of Tehran and Suburban Bus Company (SWTSBC) reported that intelligence agents had arrested Reza Shahabi, a member of its board of directors. HRAN reported that Reyhani Ansari, another workers’ rights activist, was also arrested on the same day. Telegram channels close to intelligence services claims that Shahabi and Assadollahi were arrested on “charges of cooperating with a foreign team intent on overthrowing” the government, without providing evidence to support this charge.

On May 16, the Mehr News agency reported that the authorities had stopped an outspoken sociologist, Saeed Madani, who previously spent five years in prison for his peaceful activism, on the charge of “meeting suspicious foreign actors and passing their operational directives to entities inside the country”. On 4 January, authorities at Imam Khomeini airport in Tehran had stop Madani to leave the country to begin her scholarship program at Yale University. Authorities have since prevented him from leaving Iran and have interrogated him several times.

On May 17, the television channel of the Islamic Republic of Iran broadcast a video identifying the two arrested Europeans as Cecile Kohler, 37, and Chuck Paris, 69. Kohler is would have a leader of a French teachers’ union.

During the last week of April, the authorities stopped dozens of teachers union activists after Coordinating Council of Iranian Teachers Associations called for nationwide protests demanding reforms to the pay scale system on May Day, a day before National Teachers’ Day. Several of those arrested remain in detention, including Mohammad Habibi, spokesperson for the Iranian Teachers Association (ITTA), Rasoul Bodaghi, Jafar Ebrahimi and other prominent ITTA members.

Over the past four years, there have been many demonstrations to voice economic demands, as well as demonstrations and strikes organized by the main trade unions in the country. have been rising in Iran in response to declining living standards across the country.

Security forces responded to these protests with excessive force, including lethal force, and arrested thousands of protesters, using prosecution and imprisonment on illegitimate charges as the main tool to silence prominent dissidents and human rights defenders. The authorities have shown no willingness to investigate serious human rights violations committed under their control.

Since the beginning of the demonstrations on May 6, the authorities have strongly disturbed Internet access in several provinces. A number of videos circulating on social media show the presence of security guards and appear to show the use of tear gas. Unofficial sources published the names of five people they say were killed during protests in Khuzestan, Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari provinces. Human Rights Watch was unable to confirm the deaths.

“Iranian authorities have long sought to criminalize solidarity between members of civil society groups inside and outside the country,” said Sepehri Far. “The intention is to prevent accountability and control of state actions provided by civil society.”

Human Rights Watch

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