Iran’s coal mine explosion, tragedy of darkness and pain

coal mine explosion

At least 35 miners have lost their lives and many others were injured in a coal mine explosion in Golestan, northeastern Iran.

The explosion occurred in the Zemestanyurt mine, about 14km outside the town of Azadshahr.

The clerical regime, however, shamelessly blamed the workers for this accident. The Governor of Golestan pointed out that “the negligence of a repairman” had caused the explosion.

Rabii, the mullahs’ Labor Minister, also pointed his finger to the mine workers and said, “Apparently, the coal wagon had got stuck 700 meters deep down and workers had to jumpstart the wagon by using jumper cables, which led to the explosion.”

The reality, though, is something else. One of the rescued mine workers said that a day before the incident, they smelt the odor of the gas in the mine. So, they readily informed the mine’s directors, to no avail. They did not pay attention.

The tunnels inside Azadshahr mine lack the minimum safety accommodations and in case of any accidents, there is not going to be oxygen for longer than 15 to 20 minutes.

Five days after the mine explosion on May 7, 2017, President Hassan Rouhani visited the site of the deadly mine explosion to exploit the situation as a means of advancing his agenda for the upcoming presidential election.

The angry miners grieving the deaths of dozens of co-workers blocked the car carrying Hassan Rouhani, protesting to the Iranian regime who do not pay the slightest attention to their pain and suffering.

Addressing Rouhani, one of the miners said: “40 mine workers died. 170 children became orphans. 40 women were widowed. A few years ago, when I filed a complaint in Azadshahr’s court, they beat me up… Last year, we went to the Governor’s Office along with our wives to say that we have not received our wages for 14 months. We wanted to receive what was our right. You mean, you, the President, were not aware of this situation?”

In a clip, posted by the Tasnim news agency, Hassan Rouhani can be seen standing among miners. One of them complains that they have not been paid for 14 months. “I don’t even have 10,000 tomans,” or around $2.60, “to take my child to the doctor,” another miner says.

“President, do you know what a mine worker is? We work one year and they give us insurance for only six months and the type of insurance is for barbers and librarians, not for harmful jobs,” he continued.

A week after the disaster Basij members who are the main shareholder of the mine, continue to refuse to announce the true number of casualties in this incident. This mine had 500 workers and yet the related organs are refusing to announce how many miners were inside the mine at the time of the explosion. A number of officials have said the explosion took place during a change of shifts, placing a larger number of workers in the mine. Other sources first announced 90 miners were trapped, and afterwards resorted to provide contradicting numbers to hide the scale of this horrific incident.

“It remains unclear how many of the 60 workers had died in the mine incident,” said Hadi Hosseini, secretariat of the Center of Islamic Labor Councils in Golestan Province. “A number of these workers had reached their retirement and they should have retired through their legal pensions,” according to the state-run ILNA news agency on May 8, 2017.

At the first 12 hours after the blast authorities deployed special forces units at the site of deadly mine collapse to prevent workers’ protest, instead of mobilize all their resources to aid those afflicted.

Iranian MP Homayoun Hashemi admitted that mine workers are starving and said “In my constituency there are 100 mines worse than Yurt region. I warned to the ministers but they did not care. Some of the workers have not been paid for 22 months.  At least 200 miners have been expelled during the last week,” according to the run-state ISNA news agency.

Undoubtedly mining is one of the world’s most dangerous jobs. In Iran however, miners have been denied their basic rights or special privileges for harmful jobs. They have been also deprived of insurance and work safety. The explosion of Zemestanyurt mine is an example of injustice done to mine workers. The blast revealed that the employer violated the workers’ rights. The danger caused by such violating, led to the death of mine workers deep underground.

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