Riot police attack protesting workers of Iran National Steel Group

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Following days of protests by workers of Iran National Steel Group southwest Iran, the anti riot police attacked the demonstration.

Iran National Steel Group workers began their demonstration in front of the Khuzestan Governor’s Office on Saturday for 15th consecutive day.

Video on social media showed riot police attacking the workers and there were reports that a number of them with beaten with batons.

Police also blocked the protesters’ path when they tried to cross Naderi Bridge, one of the main bridges over Karoun River, who came out in full force to prevent them from marching in the city.

Addressing the security forces, one of the protesters, Karim Siahi shouted, “There’s no need for you to protect us. We can protect ourselves.”
“If you have force use it against the mafia, use it against those who have made workers miserable. Go use your batons against them not against those who are here to get their rights,” the worker cried out.

Several videos circulated on social media shows protesters chanting, “Shame on a government that deceives the people.” During their march, the protesters stopped in front of the Bank-e Meli (National Bank) for another round of slogans and speeches, in which they addressing the government, saying, “Congratulations on your bondage with the mafia,” a reference to the widespread government corruption that is taking its toll on the livelihoods of the workers and their families.

“We are the workers of Ahvaz steel. We will fight against tyranny,” the workers were chanting.

Intermittent protests

Workers from the Iran National Steel Industrial Group (NSIG) in Ahvaz, Khuzestan Province, southwest Iran, have renewed their protests since November 10, over months of unpaid salaries and in protest against the unannounced and sudden halt of production at the plant.

For years the company has suffered from mismanagement and lack of capital, which have rendered many productions lines idle.

INSIG workers are demanding production to be restored, injection of raw material for production and disclosing the identity of individuals who are responsible for their factory’s failure.

During the rally in front of the governor’s office on November 12, a protester said the plant’s problems became apparent about two years ago after the company delayed wage payment and insurance benefits while struggling to maintain production, according to the state-run Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA).

“The officials keep making promises but they don’t act,” added the worker, Gharib Hoveizavi.

Another protesters told ILNA that the company, which is owned by a state bank, has not ordered raw materials to resume production at the site, threatening the jobs of thousands of people.

In May 2018, Bank Melli Iran took over INSIG, which employs about 4,000 people in four different steel plants.

“Even if the employer pays our back salaries all at once, we will not end our protests until raw materials are supplied for the plant’s operation,” said the unnamed worker.

Workers at the manufacturing plant have also gone on strike numerous times in recent months to demand overdue wages. In June, many workers were rounded up by security forces and freed only when other workers launched protests.

The last of round of protests by the Ahvaz Steel workers was in June when more than 50 workers were detained by security forces. They were demanding three months of their unpaid wages.

According to labor unionist, four of the detainees were brutally beaten after being taken to a detention center for suspects arrested for drug offenses.

“One of the workers was beaten to the extent that he suffered a hemorrhage, but the authorities did not make an effort to transfer him to a medical facility,” the Free Workers Union of Iran stated in June.

According to the FWU, another detainee was shot with a Taser gun while in custody.

Reports indicate that almost all of detained workers were later released on bail after other workers demonstrated for their release.

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