ANALYSIS: Amid widening protests, time to side with Iranian people

Picture obtained from social media shows people protesting in Tehran on December 30, 2017. (Reuters)

Tuesday (June 5) marks the 15th consecutive day of a nationwide strike launched by tens of thousands of truck drivers in Iran. Video footage and still images widely circulated on social media indicate both the vast scope and organized nature of this movement, two characteristics causing major concerns for the Iranian regime.

As truckers in nearly 300 cities across the country continue to emphasize their rightful and long-neglected demands, colleagues throughout the globe are displaying sympathy and solidarity. This is one very effective method of both taking measures against the Iranian regime’s unjust rule and standing alongside the Iranian people’s just cause.

The Teamsters, known as one of the largest labor unions in the United States and the world over, issued a very powerful message recently in support of Iranian truckers.

“Iranian truck drivers in 25 provinces and 160 cities have been on strike over low pay, rising operating costs, increased tolls and other regulatory fees. #Teamsters stand in #solidarity with our Iranian brother & sisters!” said Teamster General President James Hoffa in a letter to Abolfazl Mehrabadi, deputy director of the Iranian regime’s interest branch at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Taking a step further and boosting the Iranian truckers’ efforts even further, Hoffa emphasized that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, representing the voice of 1.4 million transportation and supply chain employees across the US and Canada, also “stands in solidarity with our Iranian brothers and sisters.”

“We urge the government of Iran to listen to the grievances of the striking Iranian truck drivers, address their just demands and recognize their internationally recognized rights to assembly, speech, freedom of association and collective bargaining,” Hoffa added.

Objectives

Iran’s truck drivers are raising a series of demands they have been pursuing for several years now, including:

- A 35 to 50 percent increase for haulage charges. Iranian regime authorities are reportedly promising a 20 percent increase and truck drivers are refusing to back down, encouraging their colleagues to stand firm.
- Retirement pensions to be provided after 25 years of hauling goods.
- Their field of work being recognized and classified as harsh and demanding for the drivers, paving the path for further pensions.
- Decreasing insurance bills. Many of Iran’s truck drivers are unable to receive medical care because of such high fees.
- Decreasing supplementary fees, such as road tolls and commissions demanded at a high number of terminals (without abiding by any specific framework).
- Decreasing the price of spare parts, spare tires and fuel.
- The head of Iran’s truck drivers/owners union resigning as the protesting drivers complain he is not standing up for their rights and instead implementing the authorities’ will.
- Iranian police and other authorities ending their repressive measures against the drivers.

Further measures upsetting the truckers include authorities compelling them to install tracking devices on their vehicles. Not only are the truckers forced to pay for related expenses, they are complaining of how the regime’s only security forces, intelligence authorities and the regime-controlled National Oil Company benefit from the data provided through these trackers.

As the truckers have stood firm, daily reports from inside Iran indicate people from all walks of life joining their ranks. Taxi drivers in several cities throughout the country are adding their voice to the truckers demanding higher wages, protesting the skyrocketing price of spare parts and seeking a considerable raise in social welfare premiums.

Since Saturday chicken farm owners in numerous cities including Amol, Sardasht, Miandoab, Meshkin Shahr, Maraqeh, Hamedan, Yazd, Arak and Semnan are reportedly holding rallies outside governors’ offices protesting skyrocketing prices of chicken food and their industry being on the verge of bankruptcy.

People are affected by tear gas fired by anti-riot Iranian police to disperse demonstrators in a protest in Tehran on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. (AP)

People are affected by tear gas fired by anti-riot Iranian police to disperse demonstrators in a protest in Tehran on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. (AP)

Broader concerns

Iran’s security forces are seeing this crisis escalate as truckers and taxi drivers are taking measures to resist oppression, spreading calls and seeking solidarity and unity in their effort and seeing such measures spread extensively on social media.

This indicates a growing number of people are becoming informed and realizing the importance of uniting against the regime. And this is exactly what Tehran seeks to prevent. Clashes are reported from Isfahan and Shiraz, as truckers from smaller towns sought to join the ranks of their colleagues in larger cities to voice their demands in a stronger tone.

Remarks heard from officials show the regime is feeling the pressure. “Haulage fees have already been increased up to 20 percent and the problem of truckers’ subsidies addressed, but meeting their other demands takes time,” the Iranian regime’s Roads and Urban Development Ministry Deputy Abdol-Hashem Hassan Nia said on May 31. These remarks came after senior officials realized they cannot merely neglect the truckers’ demands and how the economic impact began kicking in for the regime.

To this day, the truckers are showing no intention to back down and have flatly rejected promises made by regime officials, promising to continue their initiative until authorities meet their demands. There are also reports of truckers from southern Iran heading toward Tehran, the capital, on Monday to have more people hear their reasonable and legitimate demands.

Iran is home to nearly 370,000 trucks delivering goods across the country. An increasing number of drivers are realizing how they have tolerated their unjust conditions far too long and now is the time to stand firm, knowing their voices are heard by the international community.

As the United States and its partners in the Middle East – and eventually Europe – are realizing and adopting a firm policy vis-à-vis the Iranian regime, one very effective and necessary initiative is to stand shoulder to shoulder with Iran’s protesting populace.

Disclaimer - This author is writing under a pseudonym to protect his identity.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:51 - GMT 06:51
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