ITF urges release of ill Iranian union leader

The ITF has demanded the release of detained Iranian trade unionist Reza Shahabi, amidst serious concerns over his health.

Reza Shahabi, a director of the Tehran bus workers’ union (Vahed Syndicate), was imprisoned in June 2010 and completed a six-year sentence. During that time, he underwent serious neck and spinal surgery following physical abuse during interrogation, and was granted medical leave for recovery. He was re-imprisoned on 9 August 2017.

On behalf of the Vahed Syndicate, ITF general secretary Steve Cotton wrote to the leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei, on 3 January 2018 to urge him to secure Mr Shahabi’s release. He said that when Mr Shahabi was re-incarcerated, “your government’s officials declared his entire medical leave as absence from prison. He was told he would have to spend an additional 968 days in prison in spite of his sentence having been fully served.

“I understand that the last time Shahabi’s family visited him in prison on 13 December 2017, the left side of his face was droopy. He was told by the prison doctor that he had suffered a minor stroke, but he wasn’t given prompt or appropriate treatment. Even prior to the stroke, doctors had already recommended he be freed on health grounds; he has high blood pressure, frequent nosebleeds, severe and continuous headaches, numbness in his feet, and a kidney infection.”

He concluded: “As a founder of the International Labour Organisation and a current member of the ILO’s governing body, the Islamic Republic of Iran is committed to respect labour rights. The ITF strongly believes that Shahabi’s immediate and unconditional release in line with such commitments would not only be seen as a positive and human gesture, it would also enhance your government’s reputation at international level.”

Read more about the ITF’s support for and intervention over Reza Shahabi, including in September 2017 the ITF and other global unions’ call for urgent ILO action over widespread brutality against trade unionists and workers in Iran.

In the face of ongoing national protests and arrests of demonstrators in Iran, on 7 January five independent Iranian workers’ organisations issued a statement to protest against ‘the bloody repression and mass arrests of students and other protestors’. They are the Free Union of Iranian Workers, the Association of Electric and Metal Workers of Kermanshah, the Painters’ Union of Alborz Province, the Committee to Pursue the Establishment of Workers’ Organizations in Iran, and the Center for Defenders of Workers’ Rights in Iran (Kanon Modafean). Read more (Farsi only). 

Add your comment

All comments