Iran’s Deputy Minister of Industry announced the closure of 6,900 industrial units, exacerbating unemployment and poverty, with women hit hardest. Official data shows women’s employment decreasing, with informal jobs, accounting for 70% of employment, leaving them vulnerable to exploitation and without legal or social protections. The patriarchal and misogynistic culture systematically oppresses women, marginalizing them from decision-making and pushing them into unpaid domestic labor. Gender inequality is institutionalized in laws and governance, leading Iran to rank 143 in the 2023 global gender gap report.
Recently, steel workers in Ahvaz, Iran, intensified their protests over fair compensation, job classification, and job security, clashing with National Steel Factory management. The conflict arose after a corrupt privatization scheme, inequitable salary practices, and management’s refusal to uphold agreements. Workers have initiated strikes following failed negotiations and are challenging the management’s deceptive tactics and the government’s privatization efforts. They demand the reinstatement of a labor leader, salary adjustments in line with industry standards, and the cessation of retaliatory actions by employers.
Maziar Seyednejad, a jailed labor activist, reflects on the challenges faced by the National Steel Group and Haft Tappeh Sugarcane workers’ protests. Despite significant societal turmoil, he questions the lack of a strong connection between various protest movements. Maziar, serving a two-year sentence, highlights the need to assess the positive and negative aspects of past protests, attributing the existing disconnect to unstable organizational structures. As labor and retiree protests intensify, he sees the potential for more cohesive and powerful worker organizations to emerge based on past experiences.
Why, after more than two months of protests, have nationwide strikes not yet occurred in Iran, and how do the demands of the current uprising for “women, life, freedom” align with those of the working class? To address these questions, we spoke with Parvin Mohammadi, the vice-chairman of the Independent Iranian Workers’ Union. With years of experience in the labor movement and a history of interrogations, arrests, and trials due to her activism, Mohammadi believes that “national labor strikes will happen, but on a different schedule, when this movement becomes wider and involves crowds of thousands in cities.”