Workers at Iran’s largest oil refinery in the southwest went on strike on Tuesday, footage circulating on social media showed, as protests spread to Iran’s critical oil industry amid ongoing unrest in the country.
A video posted by the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), a news site run by a collective of Iranian human rights advocates, showed dozens of workers gathering outside the Abadan refinery in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan.
The Abadan refinery is the largest in Iran and the oldest in the Middle East.
Strikes at the refinery in the late 1970s played a key role in the uprising that toppled the former Shah of Iran and brought about the Islamic Republic.
Analysts believe the Iranian regime today would not be able to withstand large strikes in its oil industry.
“In early 1978 Iran (population 35 million) produced 6m barrels/day. Striking oil workers brought it down to 1.5 m bpd, which collapsed the government,” Karim Sadjadpour, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, wrote on Twitter.
“Today’s Iran (population 83 million) produces 2.5m bpd. They can’t afford a large/sustained oil strike,” he added.
On Monday, workers at petrochemical plants in the port city of Asaluyeh went on strike and staged protests, according to videos shared on social media.
Striking workers shouted slogans against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and blocked access roads, according to videos shared by @1500tasvir, a Twitter account with over 200,000 followers that monitors protests and violations in Iran.
A local official claimed on Tuesday that Monday’s strike in Asaluyeh was over a wage dispute and was not related to ongoing anti-government protests that were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini.
Protests erupted across Iran mid-September after Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman, died in police custody.
Activists and protesters say Amini was beaten by police officers while in detention, causing serious injuries that led to her death. Police deny the allegations.
Since Amini’s death, protests have quickly escalated and turned political with demonstrations taking place country-wide. Protesters have been chanting against Khamenei and calling for the downfall of the regime.
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