Sugar Factory Workers Join In Strikes As Unrest In Iran Continues

By RFE/RL's Radio Farda

Employees at the Haft Tapeh sugar factory in the southwestern Iranian city of Shush have joined in nationwide protests as demonstrators angry over the death of a young woman detained for an alleged Islamic dress-code violation continued to defy a violent crackdown by authorities.

Prominent labor activist Esmail Bakhshi said in on Twitter on October 18 that the factory managers tried to dissuade workers from striking by depositing money into their bank accounts "but they came anyway to show honor."

Unrest among workers in many sectors of Iran's economy is causing pressure to mount on the government after a summer of unrest over poor living conditions and a flagging economy wracked by U.S. sanctions imposed because of Tehran's nuclear program.

The latest wave of dissent was sparked by the death on September 16 of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while in police custody for allegedly wearing a hijab improperly.

Authorities have met demonstrators with lethal force on city streets throughout the country.

Striking workers have been reported in several cities in recent days, especially in southern areas where Iran's oil industry is located, one of the few sectors of the economy able to bring in money for the government.

Videos posted by the Organizing Council of Oil Contract Workers in Iran show fuel tanker drivers at the Abadan oil refinery refusing to load supplies and blocking the entrance to the refinery.

There are also reports indicating that workers at the central workshop of the South Pars Gas Complex, and the Bushehr, Abadan, and Bandar Abbas petrochemical companies also have gone on strike, while those at the Asalouyeh petrochemical plant and Kangan Petro Refining Company joined on October 18.

Meanwhile, students at various Iranian universities, including in Tehran, Gilan, and Mazandaran, continued their protests and sit-ins.

Videos published on social networks show students at Allameh Tabataba'i University in Tehran shouting down a speech by Ali Bahadori, a government spokesman, with chants of "Shameless, shameless!" and "Woman, life, freedom!"

In a show of anger over government policies, students at Tehran University on October 18 had a group lunch, flouting rules on the compulsory gender segregation in the cafeteria. In response, security forces moved in and beat some of the students while threatening to arrest them.

To restrict the flow of communication between protesters, the government has blocked or slowed the Internet in many areas of the country, while also restricting access to social media.

On October 19, the Communications Ministry announced the government was looking at criminalizing the use of virtual personal networks (VPNs) to circumvent the Internet restrictions.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda