Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the Iranian authorities to immediately release at least eight labor activists and journalists who have remained in detention since their arrest during a May Day demonstration in central Tehran.
The New York-based watchdog made the call on May 15, saying in a statement that the authorities should allow labor activists to exercise their rights to peaceful assembly and raise their demands, instead of arresting them.
“While Iranian authorities regularly highlight the potentially negative impact of [U.S.] sanctions on Iranian civilians, they brook almost zero domestic criticism of their own economic policies by labor activists,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at HRW.
At least 35 demonstrators, including labor activists and two journalists, were detained during the May 1 rally outside the parliament building, RFE/RL’s Radio Farda reported at the time.
The demonstrators chanted slogans against high living costs and rising inflation, and called for the right to establish independent labor organizations.
While a number of those detained were later released, at least six of them are still being detained in Tehran’s Evin prison, including journalists Keyvan Samimi and Marzieh Amiri, HRW said.
Iran’s labor law does not recognize the right to create independent labor unions, and the authorities “have repeatedly harassed, summoned, arrested, convicted, and sentenced” workers affiliated with such organizations, according to HRW.
The country has witnessed protests over the past year sparked by the country’s worsening economic situation, in part due to the reimposition of U.S. sanctions after Washington withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers.
Amnesty International said it had documented the arrests of hundreds of workers and other labor rights activists during that period as part of a campaign by the authorities to “repress social unrest and public dissent.”
Prison sentences were handed down to dozens of them, according to the London-based group.