Despite the suppressive measures by Iranian regime, including harassment, arrests, and the threat of executions by the regime’s Prosecutor-General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, the nationwide strike of the truckers and heavy vehicle drivers has intensified across Iran. They started their fifth round of strikes on Saturday, December 21, 2018, and plan to continue the strike until December 31st.
While the regime claims there is a popular base in Iran that opposes the U.S. President Trump and stands against the sanctions that have increased business costs, the Iranian truck drivers are not blaming Trump but the corrupt Iranian officials for their mismanagement of the economy and unacceptable policies that has led to and provoked the imposed sanctions. They protest by parking their vehicles on highways or in parking lots to show solidarity.
According to Iran News Wire, truck drivers began a wave of organized, nationwide strike last September that spread to 112 cities across Iran.
A number of International Labor Organizations have shown their support for Iranian truck derives including the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC with 27 million members); the Trades Union Congress (TUS), Labor Start (Switzerland); Industrial Global Union (Switzerland); Industrial Workers of the World (IWW- England); Labor Unions of Italy, the CGIL, CISL, and UIL; and the United Road Transport Union (URTU- England).
Striking Iranian truck drivers posted video clips online showing trucks on strike in huge numbers of cities, and there are indications that other cities will join the strike in the upcoming days. The protests target corruption in law enforcement, high fuel and spare parts prices, low income, poor road conditions, and zero insurance coverage.
They blame the regime’s Transportation Organization for many of these conditions, but the tax department has also imposed new taxes, in addition to commissions and charges imposed on drivers by various government departments.
The Iranian authorities not only have not responded to the needs of the striking truck drivers, but also they attempted to intimidate and force them to return to work during the last four rounds of strikes. Those efforts, however, were ineffective.
The Iranian authorities usual response is harassment, arrests, and threat of executions as they are unwilling and unable to address the legitimate demands of the truckers and other strata of the society including the Ahvaz Steel and Haft Tapeh Sugar Mill Workers who went on strike and protests for over a month.
However, according to reports, they were forced to release the outspoken Haft Tapeh labor representative, Esmaeil Bakhshi, who was detained on November 18, 2018 on the 14th day of the strike by the sugarcane workers. Mr. Bakhshi was released on December 12 on bail after nearly a month of detention and mistreatment. He is known for his passionate speeches during the workers’ weeks-long strike actions, but since his release, he has been absent from workers’ strikes and other labor activities. A source claimed, “He was beaten until he was on the verge of death.” Bakhshi’s family said that he was (physically and psychologically) tortured in detention and is now suffering from severe physical and psychological problems.