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Iran arrests 41 striking steelworkers - but undaunted union demands renationalisation of industry

STRIKING Iranian steelworkers have called for the privatised industry to be brought back under public ownership after the oppressive regime made 41 arrests in night-time raids.

Workers at the Iranian National Steel Industry Group (INSIG) in Ahvaz have been on strike for 39 days and vowed to march on the Iranian capital Tehran as government oppression intensifies.

Security forces raided homes in the early hours of Monday morning, arresting 31 strike leaders. Another 10 were detained today, with strikers refusing to meet the governor of Khuzestan province until the workers are released.

They have been in dispute with bosses at the Ahvaz steel factory for the past year over a failure to pay wages and ignoring the demands of workers to operate at full capacity to ensure its sustainability.

Workers are also demanding authorities use the provisions within the Iranian constitution to facilitate the return of the factory, which was privatised in a highly secretive deal in 2010, to the public sector.

They have continued the strike despite threats from the Iranian regime which is fearful of growing discontent and anti-government sentiment due to their handling of a growing economic crisis.

Tudeh Party international secretary Navid Shomali told the Star that the renewed wave of arrests was an attempt by the regime to break the strike and create “fear, division and disillusionment amongst the ranks of workers in struggle.”

He said that the dispute was crucial and called on “all forces, parties and national, progressive and liberal organisations, as well as trade union, social and popular organisations, including women’s, youth and student movements, to join in solidarity with the struggles of the workers.”

This support would promote cohesiveness and unity within the anti-regime movement and represent a major step forward in uniting the scattered and disjointed protests that have taken place so far, according to Mr Shomali.

“The public mood is ever increasingly turning to one of sympathy with the strikers and support for their just demands.  There is a very real anger growing about the way in which the private sector has asset-stripped the acquired factories and destroyed their capacity for industrial production.

“The Tudeh Party of Iran demands the immediate and unconditional release of the workers and their representatives and stands behind them in their tireless struggle.

“The party repeats once more its call for the widest international solidarity with the striking workers in INSIG Ahvaz and the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Complex,” he said.

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