Workers at Iran’s Ahwaz steel factory protested on Sunday for the 17th day in a row in Ahwazi streets and in front of governmental departments, chanting slogans against the regime’s intervention in Syria and against rising living expenses.
Among the slogans chanted were: ‘Leave Syria to its own and think about us’, ‘increased living expenses are the price of participating in the elections,’ ‘death to this deceitful government’, and ‘we are workers not mobs.’
Media reports said workers began their protests from in front of the headquarters of the Khuzestan Province and then headed to crowded areas such as martyrs’ square and the Naderi intersection.
The Ahwaz steel factory was owned by the state and was later privatized following corruption-related issues.
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Protests at the factory escalated after the demonstrations of the sugarcane workers in Haft Tepe. Haft Tepe protesters demanded payment of wages that haven’t been paid in months. Soon after, the steel factory’s employees began protesting to support them, and ask for the same demands.
But the laborers were shocked when they saw the security forces’ response to their peaceful activity.
The protests were suppressed as many laborers were detained and accusations were fabricated against them. Many observers have also noted the regime’s frequent lies. Activist Murtaza Akbryan asked during a protest on Saturday: “Why do government officials lie and say the government paid the wages of two months to employees, and that production has resumed?”
On Saturday, the steel factory workers said they will continue to protest, and voiced their support of the sugarcane workers. They also called for the release of their detained colleagues and those who have been forcibly disappeared.
In an attempt to limit the protests, the IRNA news agency reported on Saturday that the Iranian government appointed a new executive director for the sugarcane company in Haft Tepe.
Workers at Haft Tepe, the steel factory and others said their top demand is the release of their detained colleagues, mainly Ismail Bokhshi, especially after worrying reports that he has been tortured and was transferred to hospital.
Although the judicial authorities said on Thursday that Bokhshi was not tortured, activists in the ranks of the protestors said he was hit in the face and head, and that his face was swollen and he has suffered from bleeding in the stomach.
This year has witnessed increased protests by employees in the government and non-government sectors in Iran as laborers have begun to support one another especially after the wide protests in December 2017 and January 2018. Many observers think these protests may expand and escalate in the next phase.
The demonstrations come in the midst of deteriorating living conditions that have pushed residents and market traders to protest rising prices.