About noon on Saturday, October 28, 2017, Mahmoud Salehi, a prominent activist of the Iranian Labour Movement, was arrested by four plainclothes security forces immediately after his kidney dialysis in a hospital in Saqez, Kurdistan province.
Mahmoud Salehi goes to Khomeini Hospital twice a week for dialysis. On October 28, 2017, as usual, after dialysis treatment, he was heading home along with his wife, Najibeh Salehzadeh. Suddenly a plainclothes agent stopped Mahmoud from behind and said he was arresting him. Mahmoud and his wife explained that he wasn’t feeling well due to the dialysis treatment and that he could repot to their office a day after, but two other plainclothes agents also came and they placed him forcefully in a car; at the same time a female agent went behind Najibeh to make sure that she could not intervene.
Najibeh requested to accompany Mahmoud to the courtroom, but they refused her request. They took Mahmoud to the Saqez court and Najibeh arrived separately shortly after. The public prosecutor of the Saqez court stated to Mahmoud Salehi that previously they had sentenced him to 9-year prison but his jail term has been reduced to one year effective immediately. Thereafter, around 4:00 PM, Mahmoud Salehi was transferred to the central prison of Saqez for execution of the sentence (see Mahmoud Salehi’s background below for more information).
Mahmoud Salehi suffers from serious heart and kidney diseases; plus twice a week he has to do kidney dialysis in the hospital. The health of Mahmoud Salehi will be in grave danger in prison and the authorities know that really well.
By incessantly targeting veteran labour activists in Iran, the Iranian government and judiciary not only are perpetuating a seemingly permanent state of fear and intimidation, it also is condemning some of these activists to gradual death. The Iranian labour movement just mourned the death of Mohammad Jarahi, who was refused proper treatment during his prison term.
Mahmoud Salehi is one of the most progressive and courageous Iranian labour activists and has been crucial in the rise of the Iranian labour movement in the past decade. He has spent many years in prison. The Iranian labour organizations and activists have strongly condemned the re-imprisonment of Mahmoud Salehi and demand his immediate and unconditional freedom.
As we stated previously, we all remember that Shahrokh Zamani was killed in Rajaee Shahr prison in September 2015 and no justice has yet to be done for his death; this is the same notorious jail that Reza Shahabi is being held prisoner. As predicted, none of Reza Shahabi’s demands have yet been addressed by the IRI’s prison/intelligence authorities after he conditionally halted his 50-day hunger strike on September 27th. Shahabi continues to be in prison despite growing health problems. Education workers, Esmail Abdi and Mohsen Omrani, continue to be incarcerated, and Mahmoud Beheshti Langroodi has been arrested and transferred to Evin prison on September 12, 2017 and the appeals court recently confirmed another 5 year jail term against him, which means that his total prison sentences are now 14 years. Tens of other Iranian labour and social activists have been summoned to courts in recent weeks.
We call on all workers’ and human rights’ organizations and concerned individuals to condemn the imprisonment of Mahmoud Salehi as well as other jailed labour activists including Reza Shahabi, Esmail Abdi and Mahmoud Beheshti-Langroodi.
International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran (IASWI)
October 30, 2017
Mahmoud Salehi’s Brief Biography:
Mahmoud Salehi is one of the most prominent, progressive and courageous labour activists in Iran’s recent history. He is a former leader of the Bakers’ Union in Saqez as well as a founding member of the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organizations in Iran. He was also the spokesperson for the Reza Shahabi Defence Committee in Iran.
Mahmoud Salehi was born in 1962 (1341). He is married with 2 children. Due to living in poverty, Mahmoud could not attend school and thus joined the labour market when he was only 6. He did some tailoring and bakery jobs. After the 1979 revolution, Mahmoud joined the newly formed bakery workers syndicate in the City of Saqez. Mahmoud started his labour activities since then. In May 1979, he actively participated in organizing the May Day demonstration in Saqez, Kurdistan province; however, when the government forces attacked the City, Mahmoud along with hundreds of other workers (including many members of the bakery workers’ syndicate) had to leave the City. He consequently moved to Mahabad City. In May 1983 (1362), Mahmoud helped to organize a May Day event, in which they closed about 60 bakeries in Mahabad and Mahmoud delivered speeches in the workplaces. Consequently, the government prosecuted Mahmoud and he had no other choice but to leave Mahabad. After some time, Mahmoud decided to go back to Saqez but shortly after the Intelligence agency arrested Mahmoud and jailed him for three years. In the winter of 1989 (1367), Mahmoud was released from the prison. From 1989 to 1993 (1368 to 1372), Mahmoud helped to organized workers and labour events such as May Day with the help of city residents in suburban areas so that the government forces could not interfere.
In 1994 (1373), the Founding Committee of the Trade Association of Saqez Bakery Workers held its general assembly, in which all participants decided to nominate Mahmoud as their representative but the authorities of the Ministry of Labour opposed that decision. Workers immediately protested the Ministry of Labour’s interference, which helped to result in the Labour Administration’s retreat from the decision and thus Mahmoud formally became workers’ representative. In 1995 (1374), Mahmoud was arrested again for his activities with the trade association and after a short period of detention he was released. In 1999 (1378), Mahmoud, along with a few other labour activists, among them Mohammad Abdipour, Jalal Hosseini, Ebrahim Karimi, and Mohammad Mohammadi, were arrested by the security forces and spent 75 days in a solitary jail cell. In 2000 (1379), Mahmoud was arrested again, this time he was incarcerated for 10 months. After his release, the intelligence service removed Mahmoud from his position as the representative of the trade association and denied his eligibility to run for the position again.
In 2001 (1380), while the governor’s office had given Mahmoud the permission for 7 minutes of speech at the May Day event, Mahmoud was arrested in front of the crowd. But people staged a protest and demanded that the governor intervene for Mahmoud’s release. People threatened that they would demonstrate outside the office of the intelligence service, which helped to secure Mahmoud’s freedom after 3 days. With the order of the intelligence service and with the collaboration of the local authorities of the labour Ministry, Mahmoud was fired from his workplace after 9 years of seniority without any severance or benefits given to him. After that, due to the fear of the intelligence agency, no employer hired Mahmoud. Mahmoud then had to work for the Bakery Workers Cooperative Society.
Mahmoud along with Jalal Husseini, Mohsen Hakimi, Borhan Divargar, Mohammad Abdipoor, Esmail Khodkam and Hadi Tanomand and many other workers were arrested on May 1st 2004 at the beginning of a rally in celebration of May Day in the City of Saqez, Kurdistan Province. The above labour activists, internationally known as Saqez Seven, went on hunger strike while in custody until they were released on heavy bail on May 12, 2004.
In late April 2004, Salehi met with Ms. Anna Biondi of the ICFTU (now ITUC) in Tehran to discuss the dire situation of workers in Iran, while she was on a mission in Iran; this mission was closely monitored by the Iranian intelligent services. Mahmoud was arrested two days after the meeting in Saqez on the May Day event. Since his release on May 12, 2004, Mahmoud has incessantly been involved in organizing and mobilizing labour movement. He was one of the leading persons to form the Coordinating Committee to Form Workers’ organization in 2005, which was endorsed by thousands of workers across the country despite the repressive conditions in the country. While facing three years of imprisonment since May 2004, Mahmoud wrote numerous articles on workers’ rights and systemic barriers imposed by the ruling capitalist class and the government, and he was interviewed frequently by various independent radios and websites. He has been a supporter of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company and the Haft Tapeh Sugarcane Workers’ Syndicate. Salehi and his Saqez colleagues have been receiving considerable support and solidarity from labour and progressive activists and organizations internationally since the Saqez trials and afterwards.
In addition, Mahmoud Salehi was arrested on April 9, 2007 and transferred to a prison in the city of Sanandaj. The Kurdistan Province Appeal Court sentenced Mahmoud to one year imprisonment and also a three year suspended prison sentence, and the verdict was carried out immediately without prior notice to Mahmoud, his family or his lawyer. Various campaigns for Mahmoud’s freedom were launched in Iran and other countries by labour and progressive activists. Mahmoud was finally released on April 6, 2008 from the City of Sanandaj‘s central prison, despite the fact that he had finished one-year jail term on March 23, 2008 but the authorities had refused to release him until April 6, 2008.
Mahmoud Salehi became very ill as a result of years of persecution and imprisonment. He suffers from chronic kidney disease, as a result of which he requires dialysis. He also suffers from a heart disorder. Amnesty International said, “Mahmoud Salehi has long suffered persecution by the Iranian authorities, spending several periods in prison because of their legitimate and peaceful activities as trade union activists and human rights defenders.”
Only two days after his release from prison, Mahmoud Salehi told a reporter that the labour movement in Iran has been striving for achievement of its basic demands and that his activities during the past two decades have been for this purpose and despite many obstructions he has continued these activities for the realization of the working class goals and objectives. Salehi emphasized that such restrictions will not prevent or affect his efforts in defense of workers’ rights and demands.
Almost all progressive and labour organizations inside Iran and abroad sent solidarity messages for Salehi’s freedom. His freedom was reported by many international news agencies. Labour organizations and unions around the world, from Pakistan and Australia to France and Canada e expressed their support and joy for Salehi’s release. The Global Union federations and Amnesty International, which had also been campaigning for the freedom of both Salehi, welcomed the release of Mahmoud Salehi. In Canada, CUPE, CUPW and other unions were very supportive of Salehi. CUPE Ontario Division invited Mahmoud Salehi twice before but the Canadian Embassy in Tehran refused to issue a visa to Mahmoud. Mahmoud Salehi was able to visit France after he was invited by French Workers’ Collective in Support of Workers in Maghreb and Middle East, which includes five major French trade Union federations, CGT, CFDT, FSU, Solidaires and UNSA, for a labour tour and conference in March 2012. He once again was invited to attend and speak at the CGT’s 50th congress in March 2013. Salehi was accompanied with his wife, Najibeh Salehzadeh. Both Saleh and his wife were targeted by authorities after their trip to France. Najibeh Salehzadeh was arrested and tried for social media posts in support of Reza Shahabi as well as her trip along with Salehi to France. She was later acquitted of all charges at an appeals court.
Mr. Salehi has many stories to share regarding the continuous persecution he has faced throughout the years. He recalls that “On May Day 2011, some of the labour activists in cities of Sanandaj and Saghez were summoned and subsequently arrested. In Saghez, Ali Hosseini and Hossein Moradi and I were arrested. I got arrested while I was very ill; a few days prior to the arrest I had a surgery performed on me by Dr. Mansour Alizadeh for the purpose of dialysis. About 35 centimeters of artificial vessels were implanted through my body’s left side. Despite such serious health conditions, the authorities arrested me at 1:30 pm on May 1, 2011 and detained me in a very cold room without any charges. This room was so cold that I developed pain and discomfort.”
Prior to May Day 2015, in a prearranged raid on April 28, 2015, the agents of the intelligence office of Saqez City arrested Mahmoud Salehi on behalf of the Kurdistan Provincial Intelligence Office without any reason and evidence arrested Mahmoud Salehi at his residence in the city of Saghez. Mahmoud Salehi was released on bail after 32 days on May 30, 2015, but as result of his incarceration in solidarity confinement and lack of proper medical treatment he lost both his kidneys.
On August 8th and 20th, 2015, Mahmoud Salehi was tried at the first branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Sanandaj, presided by Judge Saeedi, during which he was charged with membership in the Komala (Communist Party of Iran), propaganda against the system and membership in the Coordinating Committee To Help Form Workers’ Organizations. Mahmoud Salehi’s defense has already been made public in Farsi by himself. During these hearings Mahmoud Salehi denied membership in Komala but confirmed that he has been a member and co-founder of the Coordinating Committee to Help Form Workers’ Organizations, which is well known labour organization in Iran.
On September 16, 2015, Mahmoud Salehi was again summoned by the office of the branch one of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj. When he reported to the court office, the clerk showed him a letter to read, in which it was indicated that Mahmoud Salehi was sentenced to one and a half years imprisonment with the charge of “propaganda against the system” and to seven and a half years jail for the charge of “membership in the opposition groups” for a total of nine years in prison. The clerk however refused to give him a copy of the verdict stating that they do not give copies to those charged with political matters. Mahmoud since then had been trying to repeal the above charges. On Saturday, October 28, 2017, Mahmoud Salehi, was arrested by four plainclothes security agents immediately after his kidney dialysis in a hospital in Saqez, Kurdistan province. He was taken to the Saqez court. The public prosecutor of the Saqez court stated to Mahmoud Salehi that previously they had sentenced him to 9-year prison but his jail term has been reduced to one year effective immediately. Thereafter, around 4:00 PM, October 28, 2017, Mahmoud Salehi was transferred to the central prison of Saqez for execution of the one-year sentence.
Mahmoud Salehi is undeniably one of the most courageous anti-capitalist labour activists in Iran today. He has contributed greatly to the recent rise of the labour movement in Iran.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Prepared by International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran (IASWI); updated on October 30, 2017. This is a working document.
Background Information: www.workers-iran.org
PLEASE SEND protest letters to the electronic addresses below: Please also send them via the Iranian diplomatic representatives accredited to your country, if there is an Iranian diplomatic mission in your country. Although Iranian embassies’ addresses change frequently, please see the link below which might help: https://www.embassypages.com/iran
· President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Twitter: @HassanRouhani (English) and
· The Judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran – High Council of Human Rights
· Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations