Continuing with our coverage of the ongoing uprising in Iran, we share the statement made by Reza Shahabi, a working class leader and political prisoner of the regime, a statement by the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (SWTSBC) giving important updates on his health condition, and information about his case- translated and shared with us by Zhaleh Sahand, an independent Iranian Trotskyist, ex- political prisoner, and retired educator, now living abroad.
Reza Shahabi, a member of the board of directors of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (SWTSBC) has been imprisoned several times by now in sham trials. The verdicts he has received on the basis of security accusations and charges, in reality amounts to nothing but a display of sheer lack of basic human rights in Iran. He, along with all other political prisoners, must immediately and unconditionally be released now.
Update From November 26
It has been reported on November 26, 2022, that Reza Shahabi is in a critical condition and must urgently receive medical treatments and surgery.
Reza Shahabi was sent to Imam Khomeini Hospital after his pain worsened. His treating doctor has informed him that he must urgently undergo a surgery as his discs are severely damaged, and can cause raptures in the affecting areas; C1 through C5 vertebrae.
Shahabi, has been sent back to jail on the same day, though his doctor has suggested him to undergo an emergency surgery after he received his MRI result. It should be noted that following the injuries that were inflicted on Reza Shahabi during his arrest and interrogation in 2009, he subsequently underwent a back and neck surgery. Unfortunately, the condition of his imprisonment in the Evin prison and the pressure of long interrogations has aggravated Reza Shahabi’s neck and shoulder pain again, for not being treated properly when he returned to jail.
The Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (SWTSBC) is expressing its serious concern about the continuation of Reza Shahabi’s imprisonment and demands immediate surgery and release for Shahabi.
The Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (SWTSBC)
November 26, 2022
Background information on Reza Shahabi is as follows:
Reza Shahabi, 49, grew up in the city of Shabestar, a province in Iran’s East Azerbaijan. He is an imprisoned member of the board of directors of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company.
The Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (SWTSBC) was established in 1958, during the Shah’s regime. Having faced major upheavals throughout the Islamic regime due to continued hostilities towards the unionizations of any sorts of organized activities, the syndicate was finally restructured in 2004, —27 years after intermittent activities by Reza Shahabi along some other workers activists based on the International Labor Organization constitutional standards and principles.
Reza Shahabi started work while he was still at school to help his family. He was hired as a driver for the Tehran Bus Company before he graduated from high school. He began studying law in 2006, after being fired because of his trade union activities.
Reza Shahabi became one of the members of the Executive Committee in 2005. In that year, he was arrested for several days after he went on strike to protest the arrest of members of the syndicate in their first trade union strike.
His position was reinstated in 2009, at the end of a governmental investigation commission, but he was again arrested shortly afterwards for 8 months and was imprisoned in Evin prison, consequently enduring sever interrogation in order to consent and confess to attempts at “overthrowing the Islamic Republic”, with the help of the opposition groups.
On May 2011, Reza received an order to return the wages he had received to the Bus Company for the time he was unemployed, and was sentenced to a one year prison term for “propaganda against the regime”, and five years for “conspiracy against national security.”
Reza appealed the sentence, and waited for 22 months to receive a verdict from the Court of Appeals and had to resort to several hunger strikes. Finally, in addition to a five year ban on his union activities, he received a four year prison sentence on April 14, 2012. Reza Shahabi was released for his serious medical condition and surgeries on a 200 million tomans bail in May 2014.
He was then fired from his job. With the help of his wife, he opened a small shop, making home products, but since he had been released on the basis of his medical condition, he was compelled to return to Rajaee Shahr Prison in Karaj on August 7, 2017,
To protest being returned to prison, two years after his release, prominent labor activist Reza Shahabi started a hunger strike on August 9, 2017, in Rajaee Shahr Prison in Karaj, 31 miles east of Tehran.
On march 13, 2018, Reza was again released from Evin Prison, but after attending a peaceful demonstration arranged by political activists in Tehran on the occasion of the International Workers Day, on May 1st, he was arrested again along with some others after they were violently attacked by the Iranian security forces. Five days after, on May 5, 2019, he was released on bail.
On April 28, 2021, in an open letter to the Islamic Republic Judiciary, Shahabi reported that his nephew had violently been beaten by several bikers who told him “We don’t have a problem with you but tell your uncle to stop his activities. Otherwise, we’ll arrest his son and his daughter, and we’ll beat him up so bad that no one would recognize him.” He also added that he has received several anonymous death threats against himself and his family.
On May 12, 2022, Shahabi was arrested at his home again on a sham accusation of “cooperation and communication with Cecile Kohler, member of FNEC FP-FO, and her husband, Jacques Paris who entered the country with a tourism visa and are currently under arrest, to overthrow the government. They were charged with “forming an anti-security nucleus with the goal of agitating the workers, teachers, and people in order to create chaos.” Since May 12, Reza Shahabi has been prisoned in Evin prison, and on June 13 he went on hunger strike in protest against his continued detention. “
Since Shahabi has been locked up in Ward 209 of Evin Prison while incarcerated and on hunger strike for 42 days, his suffering have greatly increased, including severe pain in the neck vertebrae, numbness on the left side of his body and face. His blood pressure has been dangerously high fluctuating between 16 and 18.
On October 15, 2022, Reza Shahabi was informed that his court session has been canceled and will be rescheduled for some later date. But his lawyers informed him later that he has already been tried in absentia with only lawyers present and has been sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment on the charge of improper assembly and collusion, and an additional one year of on the charge of conducting propaganda against the State, plus two years of exile from Tehran and neighboring provinces. He has also been banned for two-year ban from any trade union activities and barred from traveling abroad.
In protest to these cruel verdicts, and purely false accusations, Reza Shahabi has issued a statement from jail. The translation of his letter in English, is as follows:
An open letter from Reza Shahabi, the imprisoned member of the board of directors of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company:
With the aim of informing the public, the noble, the hardworking people, and all the wage earners:
First: the false and disgusting concocted stories of the so-called national media (Islamic Republic Radio and Television), which tried to persuade the public opinion that our selfless activism—fully a consequence of any free individual’s everyday concern for problems plaguing the working class (both Iranian and non-Iranian)—is a consequence of an unhealthy communication with forces abroad, I hereby strongly deny with disgust.
Secondly: The case of Reza Shahabi(I), who is being prosecuted by the security agency since July 13, 2022 , has nothing to do with any purported criminal behavior and is simply a made-up scenario to discredit our healthy efforts that are completely rational and results of the pain of several hundred years of institutionalized oppression experienced by the workers and toilers-condition of economic subordination faced by me and those like me.
Ultimately, this failed scenario just exposed has resulted in a cruel sentence of 5 years imprisonment on the charge of improper gathering and collusion, and one year imprisonment on the charge of conducting propaganda against the regime, and an additional two years exile from Tehran and neighboring provinces. Moreover, it has led to additional two-year ban on all trade union activities and a ban as well on travel abroad.
Thirdly: While I condemn the desperate efforts of the government in suppressing the demands of the honorable people of Iran who are standing firm in the face of an indescribable amount of brutality and organized barbarism by the agents of this regime, and who nevertheless have not taken a single step back, I would also like to inform you that I, Reza Shahabi, am standing by all my friends and loved ones who have withstood same such organized and brutal atrocities for many years. And I will further continue to stand up and will never stop the fight for what’s right. We will not give up.
Unfortunately, in the current situation, my fellow activists and I, in trade union movement like the rest of the people, deprived of access to any nationwide media, our media controlled by state has unjustifiably, unilaterally, and without any valid documentation, has been allowed to publish and propagate all kinds of false accusations and lies with no regards or consideration for due process and the human rights of the defendants before the formation of the courts.
Since none of our complaints against the National Radio and Television, the judicial and the sovereign authorities will ever bear fruits, we leave this account of our complaints, ill treatment, and innocence for the judgment of our gallant nation and the passage of time.
Ward 4, hall 3,
Evin Detention Center
The solution of the workers are Unity and organization!
The Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company