Striking truck-drivers crippling Iranian regime
Truck drivers in Iran are on strike, angered by rising business costs, the result of the U.S. sanctions squeezing Iran's economy. The Iranian regime claims to have a popular base opposing U.S. President Donald Trump and standing against any sanctions. However, despite the regime's rhetoric, Iranian truck-drivers are parking their vehicles on highways and parking lots in a show of solidarity.
Reports indicate that the effects of the strike have been profound:
Hundreds of gas stations and many factories throughout the country are closed as gas and materials for production have no longer been transported by the truckers.
Despite the Iranian regime's suppressive measures, including harassment, arrests, and executions – announced by the Supreme Leader Khamenei's chief prosecutor, General Montazeri – the nationwide strike of the heavy vehicle-, oil tanker-, and other truck-drivers continues and has intensified in different cities in Iran. It began in May 2018, and now the strike covers 259 cities. According to the NCRI report, drivers have shut down cargo terminals and refused to load goods while chanting: "Do not be afraid, we are all together." Many cargo terminals across the country and in the border areas are semi-closed and inactive.
The protests are aimed against the corruption of law enforcement by government agencies, high fuel and spare parts prices, low income, poor road conditions, and no insurance coverage.
In addition to the Transportation Organization, the tax department has also been pressing the drivers by imposing new taxes. This is in addition to all sorts of commissions and charges imposed on drivers by various government departments. Drivers have been demanding a change of the corrupt management of Iran's Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization, but Rouhani's government is interested only in extorting money from drivers using various pretenses. (See this video.)
The regime is denouncing the drivers. Montazeri said:
"According to the information we have, in some routes, some of the cities, there are elements who are provoking some of the truckers, or possibly blocking them and creating problems for them. They are subject to the rules and regulations of banditry and the punishment of the bandits according to the law is very severe, sometimes resulting in the death penalty." (News Network TV News – September 29)
At the same time, Ali al-Qasimehr, the chief justice of Fars Province, accused the strikers of "corruption on earth," and IRGC brigadier general Mohammad Sharafi, one of the commanders of State Security Forces, threatens the protesters with harsh action (State TV, September 29).
However, two days earlier, the Fars Province transportation director-general had called the strike of truck-drivers "rumors," saying:
"It's been a few days that rumors about truck drivers' strike have been circulating in the media and cyberspace. This misuse of the opponents from the needs of the truck drivers to create a crisis in the country is clear for every Iranian." (FARS, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps news agency, September 27)
IRGC colonel Kavos Mohammadi, a deputy of the Fars provincial police force, described the strikers as "disrupters of the order" and said:
"Following the disrupting acts of some of these people on the roads of Fars ... [a]fter the visible and invisible patrol of officers, 22 thugs and disrupters of public order on the roads were arrested and, after filing a case, they were sent to the judiciary authorities and through them to the prisons. Police will deal with sensitivity and vigilance with the smallest insecurity factors in coordination with the judiciary, and the process of confronting with the disrupters of order and security of the roads and axes of Fars province will continue on a daily basis. The police monitor and control all the roads in this province, visibly and invisibly, and resolutely deal with all elements of disrupters of order and security in these areas." (IRNA news agency, September 26)
Mrs. Maryam Rajavi saluted the strikers throughout Iran, describing the vindictive threats of the clerics against the dignified and hardworking drivers as a reflection of the growing crisis of the clerical regime, and said the ruling mullahs are the biggest bandits in the history of Iran and that they neither want nor can respond to legitimate demands of striking drivers. She called on all human rights organizations to take action to release the arrested and urged the general public, especially the youth, to support the strikers. She added that realization of these demands is possible only with the establishment of democracy and people's sovereignty. A regime that threatens to execute its working people due to a strike must be rejected by the international community.
Hassan Mahmoudi is a human rights advocate, specializing in political and economic issues relating to Iran and the Middle East.