The bus drivers of Tehran are one of the medal winners in New Internationalist's Human Rights Olympics. The medals have been awarded to inspirational groups around the world who are struggling for human rights in their fullest sense. In the online magazine you can find a brief background to their extraordinary three-year struggle to set up an independent trade union.
Their leader, Mansour Osanloo, has been jailed for five years for 'endangering national security'. Belonging to a trade union is recognized internationally, and by Iran itself, as a basic human right.
The International Transport Workers' Federation is organizing the latest in a series of action days which have received worldwide support. The following is taken from their press release:
Events will be held in London, Brussels and worldwide on 6 March 2008 as hundreds of thousands of trade unionists dedicate the day to demanding the release of imprisoned Iranian union leader Mansour Osanloo.
A demonstration will be held outside the Iranian Embassy at 16 Prince’s Gate, London SW7 1PTF from 12:30 to 13:30, while across the United Kingdom thousands of transport workers will be leafleting passengers in Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Newcastle and other locations. In recognition that Osanloo is an ex-bus driver and heads a bus drivers’ union, a red double decker routemaster bus will be visiting London protest sites throughout the day.
The campaign is being supported by the TUC, the unions Aslef, GMB, RMT, TSSA, Unison and Unite, as well as Amnesty International, which has declared Osanloo a prisoner of conscience.
Solidarity actions, including demonstrations, will be held at Iranian embassies, in cities, railway stations and at border crossings in Austria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Ethiopia, Cote d’Ivoire, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Korea, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mali, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Spain, South Africa and Thailand. Other countries are planning activities.
The free Osanloo day is receiving particular backing from railway workers and their unions who have voted to dedicate a planned rail action day – which traditionally gives them the chance to promote rail as a safe and environmentally positive way of traveling – to also campaigning on Osanloo’s behalf.
David Cockroft, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers' Federation, comments: 'The Iranian government’s continuing mistreatment of Mansour is a running sore. He has asked only for his basic rights and has been answered with fists, truncheons and manacles – but he has not been forgotten. On March 6th we will once again prove that he has friends and supporters around the world.'
Mac Urata, Secretary of the ITF’s Inland Transport Section, which coordinates the railway action days, said: 'With Mansour in jail and in danger of losing the sight in one eye following a previous attack on him, we are using all resources to demand his release, including the opportunity to bring together the world’s railway workers to support him.'
Mansour Osanloo, 47, is the President of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (Sherkat-e Vahed) trade union, which has been repeatedly targeted by the Iranian authorities. He has been beaten and brutalised and is now being held in Tehran’s Evin prison on trumped up charges of endangering security. The ITF and ITUC (International Trade Union Confederation) have spearheaded the campaign to defend him.
See www.freeosanloo.org for further information about Osanloo and his union’s struggle. A short film about him can be seen at www.itfglobal.org/campaigns/osanloo-film.cfm