Mr Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias,
President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
Dear Mr President:
We hear the news about your fourth trip to Iran with some concern. We believe that the Iranian regime is using your name and popularity among the Latin American masses, and progressive and anti-globalisation activists throughout the world, to falsely present a similar image for itself.
Your Excellency, this regime is fundamentally different from your government which enjoys popular support that has been demonstrated many times (including the August referendum). This is a regime which came to power by crushing the mass movement of a quarter of the population against poverty and against dictatorship. That movement was led by the workers of Iran. Instead of helping the beginnings of workers' control over industry they imposed a religious dictatorship which eventually made the workers' living and working conditions worse than during the reign of the pro-American Shah.
Workers in Iran have no right to strike, no right to form their independent organisations and are seeing successive amendments to the limited Labour Code which exclude ever larger sections from any legal protection. The most vulnerable workers - women - find themselves at the total mercy of the bosses and managers. The situation is particularly bad for women who are the sole breadwinner of their families.
During this year's May Day celebrations dozens of people were beaten and arrested simply for attending a public rally. The ongoing court case involving activists in Saghez, in Iranian Kurdistan, stands as a clear testament to the lack of rights, arbitrary treatment by the legal system, and the absence of any official accountability. There is nobody in parliament or any government post that is in favour of workers being in control of the way they work and the way they live. At the same time, the regime's elite, their families, and a whole array of officials and supporters, are amassing great wealth from the country's oil and gas revenue. While the numbers of unemployed (about 3.5 million), street children (over 200,000), prostitutes (around 300,000) and destitute people reach higher and higher levels, the Islamic Republic's highest authorities are pouring their vast wealth into foreign bank accounts.
The current high price of oil is in no way benefiting the Iranian masses: there are no special health clinics being set up for the poor, no doctors being brought in from abroad, no extra money is being spent on fighting illiteracy or reducing poverty. In fact new measures are being taken to sell 65% of nationalised industries to the private sector, the Labour Code is being watered down regularly, the range of activities in the 'free trade zones' is being expanded, and so on.
We therefore ask you to question your Iranian hosts about their record on democratic and labour rights as well as the living standards of the workers and the poor. If they wish to be your equal they should explain why they have killed hundreds of thousands of the most valiant sons and daughters of the masses, why they have driven millions into exile, why they hold the remaining millions in a virtual prison that is being prepared for the imperialists to come in and exploit in the near future.
Iranian Workers' Solidarity Network
November 29, 2004