Esmail Bakhshi and Sepideh Gholian, are still in Iran’s jails but Ali Nejati has been allowed into hospital. Bakhshi is a leader of the Haft Tappeh sugar¬cane workers, in south¬west Iran; Nejati, a former leader of those sugar¬cane workers; Gholian, a social activist and supporter of the workers. All three are known to have been tortured in jail, and their jailing is part of a response by the Iranian government to action by the sugar¬cane workers, and by steelworkers in nearby Ahvaz, which has seen dozens jailed and then released since late last year.
Mohammad Khanijar, another Haft Tappeh worker, was arrested on 27 January. On Saturday 19 January a government TV channel ran with a programme smearing the sugar-cane workers as linked to the governments of the USA and Israel.
Amnesty International, in a report on 24 January, estimates that more than 7,000 workers, protesters, and opponents of the regime were arrested last year on essentially political grounds. “Hundreds were sentenced to prison terms or flogging, and at least 26 protesters were killed. Meanwhile, nine of those arrested died in custody under suspicious circumstances”.
One journalist, Mohammad Hossein Sodagar, from the Azerbaijani Turkic ethnic minority, was flogged 74 times in the city of Khoy after being convicted of “spreading lies”. A human rights website administrator, Mostafa Abdi, was sentenced to 26 years and three months in prison, 148 lashes, and other punishments.
Many women were arrested for taking part in the “White Wednesdays” actions against forced veiling. “Shaparak Shajarizadeh was sentenced to 20 years in prison, 18 of which were suspended, for her peaceful protest against forced hijab. She fled Iran after she was released on bail, and has since described in media interviews how she was denied access to her lawyer and subjected to torture in solitary confinement”.
The Shahrokh Zamani Action Campaign is working to raise solidarity for the workers and the protesters.