Shahrokh Zamani, one of the most well-known and respected imprisoned labour activists in Iran, died on Sunday, September 13, 2015 in Gohardasht (Rajai Shahr) Prison in the City of Karaj. Shahrokh was a member of the Founding Board of the Syndicate of Paint Workers of Tehran and the Committee to Pursue the Establishment of Workers Organizations.
There are currently a wide range of reports related to Shahrokh’s death. What we can confirm at this time is that other prisoners found Shahrokh unconscious on the bed in his call. They took him to the prison’s medical centre and doctors announced him dead. The authorities claimed that a stroke was the cause of his death; however, according to Shahrokh’s daughter and others close to him, Shahrokh was generally healthy and used to exercise regularly. There are confirmed reports that there were visible bruises on his body. It is a well-known fact that the medical reports issued by the authorities of the government of Iran have no credibility; in addition, there is a growing belief amongst labour activists and the public as well as in social media that Shahrokh was killed in prison. We will issue other updates on the circumstances that led to his death.
It is crucial to emphasize that this is not the first time that labour activists have died in prisons of the Iranian regime. As we have reported previously, Rajai Shahr is one of the most notorious prisons with a very high security in which we have witnessed numerous deaths of political prisoners in past few years. Many prisoners go through severe torture, medical neglects and gross mistreatments by security guards and prison authorities. Afshin Osanloo was another labour activist who died under similar circumstances in June 2013.
Shahrokh Zamani was originally arrested, along with Mr. Mohammad Jarahi, in June of 2011. Branch 1 of the Tabriz Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced Shahrokh Zamani to 11 years and Mohammad Jarahi to five years imprisonment after conviction on charges including “acting against national security by establishing or membership of groups opposed to the system” and “spreading propaganda against the establishment”. The “trial” did not meet international standards for a fair adjudication of the charges, and the charges themselves violated internationally recognized standards for freedom of association and expression and the right of workers to organize into an organization of their choosing free of government interference, harassment or retaliation.
Shahrokh’s most basic human rights were violated throughout the past few years in prison, and his mistreatment by authorities while incarcerated was extensive. He faced extreme forms of interrogation and was subject to physical and mental tortures in prison. However, he continued to be remarkably courageous, militant and resisted ever-increasing pressures on him to stay silent. He repeatedly issued statements about his own situation and also in support of workers’ and teachers’ rights and struggles, against the capitalist exploitation and corruption, and in opposition to the anti-worker policies and practices of the Islamic Republic of Iran. While in prison, he faced new charges by the judiciary.
We have had a wide range of campaigns for the freedom of Shahrokh and many other labour activists in recent years. We firmly believe that we need to see much stronger and broader global mobilization against increasing repression of workers’ rights and the persecution of labour activists in Iran. There are currently many other imprisoned workers and teachers in the country and some of them require urgent actions for their safety and well-being, including Behnam Ebrahimzadeh, who is facing new charges in prison and Rasoul Bodaghi, who’s also facing new charges in prison even though he has finished his six-year prison sentence; many teachers are in jail, and Mohammad Jarahi, another labour activist and close friend of Shahrokh Zamni, continues to be imprisoned despite serious health problems and previous surgeries for his cancer.
The International Alliance in support of workers in Iran (IASWI) holds the Islamic Republic of Iran fully accountable and responsible for the sudden death of Shahrokh Zamani. We call for an independent international inquiry into the death of Shahrokh Zamani and the conditions of other jailed labour activists and political prisoners in Iran. IASWI urges labour and human rights organizations and concerned individuals around the world to urgently express their strongest condemnation of the death of Shahrokh Zamani.
We are also calling on all labour and progressive organizations around the world to increase pressures on the Islamic Republic of Iran to immediately end all executions, torture and mistreatment of labour activists and political prisoners and immediate and unconditional freedom for all political prisoners in Iran. We need to continue pressuring the Iranian government to recognize and respect the right to organize, assemble and freedom of association and expression as reflected in internationally recognized labour standards.
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