Quarterly Report (July-September 2023)-Labor Rights in Iran

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Labor Rights in Iran Number 26 July - September 2023 Introduction 4-Introduction: This publication is Zamaneh Media’s 26th Labor Rights Report. These reports focus on key issues like workplace health and safety, various types of workplace discrimination, women’s labor, child labor, unemployment, deferment or non-payment of wages, labor organization, and labor protests.

Zamaneh Media continuously monitors labor news in Iran, and this report provides an overview of labor rights issues there.
The following quarterly report covers labor rights issues, events, and trends from
July through September 2023. It is important to note that the information herein
does not address all labor-related events and topics. In the winter of 2022-23,
we published our fifth annual Zamaneh newsletter. Additionally, our latest special
report focused on the plight of the Baluch fuel carriers. For all previously published reports related to workers’ rights, please visit Zamaneh’s labor page.
Overview 5
Workers’ struggle to better their living conditions continues against a backdrop
of increasing economic challenges at the hands of the government. The Islamic
Republic of Iran has blocked the Supreme Labor Council from convening to reassess salaries. As a result, the gap between wages and the cost of essential
goods has tripled. Some Members of Parliament have indicated that approximately 28 million Iranians now live below the poverty line.
Data from Iran’s Statistics Center reveals a decline in the official inflation rate as
of July 2023. This decrease can be partially attributed to the price liberalization
of essential goods and the abolition of the preferential currency system, in which
the government provided currency lower than the market rate. Although this policy has worsened poverty, the government has pledged to offset the loss of purchasing power by bolstering non-cash subsidies for the lowest income deciles.
Housing and rental costs have surged despite the government’s promises to stabilize these prices. This increase has driven the economically disadvantaged to
relocate from urban centers to the peripheries and, in some cases, even to rural
areas, a trend that government officials and experts refer to as “reverse migration.” However, this term does not capture the profound economic and societal
implications of this trend.
Iran’s economy remains stagnant because of stalled nuclear negotiations with
Western nations, country-wide sanctions, heightened repression, and a growing
sense of despair. Pervasive internet censorship further also contributes to this
stagnation. The Research Center of the Iran Chamber of Commerce has reported
a deepening of the economic downturn.
Amidst these challenges, the nation approaches the anniversary of the tragic passing of Jina Mahsa Amini. Amini’s demise incited widespread protests in
2022, and since then workers have steadfastly continued their fight against poverty and hunger.
Economic Distress Pushes Workers to the Brink in Iran 6
Economic Distress Pushes Workers to the Brink in Iran
The economic turmoil in Iran has worsened to the point that it has affected the
suicide rate, particularly among the working class. Job terminations, workplace
discrimination, and unpaid wages have pushed some workers to take their own
During the summer of 2023, there were reports of at least eight workers who
took their own lives: two nurses from Kermanshah1
, two energy sector workers
from Abadan Refinery2 and Chowar Petrochemical in Ilam3, a railway worker from
Raja Company4, a municipal employee in Ilam5, a construction worker in Zahedan,
and a journalist from Dehdasht.
Job termination was the cited reason for four of these suicides. Two individuals took their lives due to the hopelessness of unemployment and poverty. The
reasons behind the tragic suicides of the two nurses from Kermanshah remain
undisclosed; however, many nurses grapple with temporary contracts and unfair
wages and face stark discrimination and wage disparities. A significant number
of nurses are employed under 89-day contracts through intermediary companies. Despite assurances from the authorities to adjust medical wages, junior
nurses and doctors often work long hours for pay that is considerably less than
their specialist counterparts. The Iran Medical Council (IRIMC) spokesperson has
confirmed that at least 13 medical residents took their own lives in 2021 and
2022 alone.
1 Radio Zamaneh, August 6, 2023
2 Radio Zamaneh, August 17, 2023
3 Radio Zamaneh, July 28, 2023
4 Didban Iran, July 10, 2023
5 Radio Zamaneh, September 3, 2023
A Somber Summer for Iranian Workers 7
A Somber Summer for Iranian Workers
From the beginning of summer through September 6, 2023, Iranian media reported the deaths of at least 116 workers due to occupational accidents (see below
table). While this number may not capture the entirety of work-related fatalities
in Iran, it is demonstrative of the increasing rate of deadly workplace incidents.
The construction industry, particularly building projects, roadwork, and well-drilling, reported the highest number of fatalities. This summer, 52 construction
workers died and another 20 sustained injuries. This data highlights the alarming frequency of fatal incidents within the construction sector. Additionally, at
least six of the deceased workers were Afghan nationals. Due to governmental
restrictions on immigrant residency, many employers hire Afghan laborers at reduced wages without offering them insurance or formal contracts. The deaths of
some workers are not reported since employers face financial penalties if found
employing migrants without valid residency and work permits, according to the
Ministry of Cooperatives, Labor, and Social Welfare.
According to data from the Iranian Legal Medicine Organization (ILMO), 1,900
workers died in occupational accidents during the Iranian calendar year 1401
(March 21, 2022 - March 21, 2023). Of this total, 850 were workers in the construction sector.6
During summer 2023, temporary employees in smaller workshops—many of
which operate outside the purview of the Ministry of Labor and the Social Security Organization—experienced a notably high rate of fatalities. Media reports
highlighted 24 accidents in these workshops, 15 of which were fatal.
The public service sector also experienced 17 fatal job-related accidents, while
another 39 resulted in injuries. Certain occupations within this sector, such as
electricians, municipal employees, and firefighters, had a heightened risk of fatal
In the mining industry, hazards such as explosions, structural collapses, and inadequate safety equipment led to the deaths of ten workers, with an additional
two sustaining injuries. A notable incident was the explosion at the Tazareh Coal
Mine, which claimed the lives of six miners. Over the past four years, this mine
has been the site of three explosions, resulting in the deaths of nine workers. It
is worth noting that the state holds 51 percent of the Tazareh Coal Mine shares,
while the Eastern Alborz Coal Company holds the remaining 49 percent. The
later is predominantly owned by the Isfahan Iron and Steel Company, holding 95
percent of its shares.7
Miners earn a monthly salary ranging from 8 to 9 million tomans, which can reach
6 ILNA, July 17, 2023
7 Radio Zamaneh, September 20, 2023
A Somber Summer for Iranian Workers 8
11 million tomans with overtime. Of the 1,500-strong workforce, only 300 are
permanent employees, while the remaining 1,200 are contracted. Despite many
contract workers boasting 15 or 16 years of experience, they remain on temporary contracts. (At the time of publication, 1 US dollar = 51,000 Tomans).
Many contractor companies overlook essential safety measures in their operations to maximize profits. This includes neglecting vital safety provisions such
as installing proper ventilation systems in the tunnels, providing workers with
standardized protective clothing, and employing medical and rescue personnel.
According to workers’ testimonies, even basic safety equipment like the fire extinguishers in the Tazareh mine are often empty.
In a conversation with Iranian domestic media, Amir Pirouz Kolahi-Azar, a faculty
member at Damghan University’s Faculty of Geosciences, noted the absence of
a functional gas meter as a primary cause of the disaster at the Tazareh mine. He
emphasized, “It’s crucial to detect pockets of methane gas early during mining
operations to prevent such mishaps.” This process requires consistent monitoring, real-time measurements, and thorough analysis.
Further echoing safety concerns, the head of the Student Basij Organization in
Semnan province relayed sentiments from the miners’ families. They reported,
“The gas measurement devices are old, worn out, and poorly calibrated.” Additionally, they expressed concerns about the subpar structural support, noting,
“the timber used to support the mine’s ceilings and walls is both insufficient and
poor quality.” The families also pointed to inadequate protective gear for workers, citing a lack of essential items such as clothing, masks, mask filters, and
protective helmets.8
Notably, the Ministry of Industry, Mining, and Trade is mandated to oversee the
safety standards in mines.
Table 1: Reported work incidents in the summer of 2023
Sector Deaths Injuries
Construction 52 20
Industry 16 63
Small Workshops 15 9
Public Service 17 39
Mining 10 2
Agriculture 2 15
Other 4 1
The primary causes of workplace fatalities during the summer were falls from
height, impacts from hard objects, electrocution, and suffocation.
8 Akhbar-e-Madan (Mine News), September 12, 2023
A Somber Summer for Iranian Workers 9
Several factors have contributed to the rising number of fatal accidents, including unsafe work tools, inadequate oversight from the Ministry of Cooperatives,
Labor and Social Welfare, the closure of health centers, and the absence of technical protection committees in workplaces. The mental strain and physical exhaustion experienced by workers — both of which are exacerbated by increased
exploitation and declining wages — also play significant roles in the uptick of
fatal incidents.
Despite higher accident rates, government officials maintain that they’ve made
strides in reducing workplace fatalities.
Crackdown 10
As the anniversary of the “Women, Life, Freedom” movement approached, many
activists advocating for gender equality, union rights, and student issues faced
increased scrutiny. In many cases, law enforcement summoned these activists or
had court orders enacted against them.
Tightening Grip on Unionists
Jafar Ebrahimi, a representative of the Tehran teachers’ union who has been
incarcerated since April 2022, was transferred from Evin Prison to Ghezel Hesar
Prison. This relocation, along with 13 other prisoners, came as a response to their
protest against the surge in prison telephone charges. Among those relocated
was Kamyar Fakour, a journalist known for championing workers’ rights.9
In Ghezel Hesar Prison, Ebrahimi and Fakour face severe restrictions; they are
denied medical services and access to personal belongings. They are held with
11 others in the ominously named “Safe Ward,” a confinement area reserved for
those on death row.
Ebrahimi’s health has been a cause for concern. Before his imprisonment, he was
diagnosed with a compromised immune system. His attorney revealed that while
in custody, Ebrahimi developed diabetes and required urgent medical care. Plans
were in motion to grant him medical leave to get treatment before his transfer
to Ghezel Hesar Prison. However, the Organization of State Prisons denied this
On September 14, 2023, the Coordinating Council of Teachers’ Union Organizations reported the urgent transfer of Jafar Ebrahimi to Rajaei Hospital in Karaj
due to his overall health condition and loss of consciousness. The council noted,
“No hospital has confirmed his admittance, and there’s a concerning lack of information regarding his condition.” After a brief meeting, Ebrahimi’s defense lawyer
disclosed visible signs of abuse on Ebrahimi’s neck, shoulders, body, wrists, and
Keyvan Mohtadi, a translator and writer advocating for workers’ rights, was previously detained and sentenced to five years in prison in relation to the case of
the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (SWTSBC). For
showing solidarity with Ebrahimi and Kamyar Fekour, Mohtadi was placed in solitary confinement in Evin prison.12
Adding to the growing list of political prisoners, SWTSBC member Reza Shahabi
9 Radio Zamaneh, September 3, 2022
10 Radio Zamaneh, September 9, 2023
11 Coordinating Council of Teachers’ Union Organizations, September 14, 2023
12 Radio Zamaneh, September 10, 2023
Crackdown 11
has been denied phone privileges for protesting Mohtadi’s solitary confinement.
Both Shahabi and Mohtadi have been incarcerated since April 2022.13
Several other labor activists also remain imprisoned. These individuals include
Rasool Bodaghi of the Coordinating Council of Teachers’ Union Organizations, as
well as SWTSBC board members Hassan Saeedi and Dawood Razavi. On September 12, 2023, the SWTSBC raised an alarm over Razavi’s deteriorating health
while in custody.14
Arrests and Sentencings
The status of some labor activists is listed below:
Anisha Assadollahi, an SWTSBC translator, saw her prison sentence executed by
security officers. Arrested in April 2022, Tehran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced
her to five years.15
Labor activist Reyhaneh Ansarinejad, detained in the spring of 2022, received a
four-year sentence from the courts. Additional penalties included prohibitions on
social media, leaving the country, and affiliating with political or social entities.
Ansarinehad’s defense lawyer criticized the Revolutionary Court’s president for
delivering a judgment solely based on security reports, discounting the defense’s
arguments.16 Reyhaneh was called to commence her sentence on September 20,
Younes Azadbar, a Telecommunications Company retiree from Gilan province,
was detained during a retiree’ rally on July 19, 2023. The Revolutionary Court
charged him with “muhareba” (war against God). It’s worth noting that pensioners from the Telecommunications Company of Iran have been protesting for over
nine months.18
Osman Esmaili, a worker from Saqqez in the Kurdistan Province, arrested on International Labor Day in 2022, was handed a 39-month prison sentence by the
Sanandaj Revolutionary Court, with a mandatory 16 months served. Esmaili secured a temporary release in March 2023 after posting a one billion toman bail.19
Kamal Karimi, a Kurdish labor activist, was given a 9-month suspended prison
13 The Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company (SWTSBC), September 11, 2023
14 SWTSBC, September 12, 2023
15 Radio Zamaneh, July 26, 2023
16 Radio Zamaneh, July 27, 2023
17 Radio Zamaneh, September 22, 2023
18 Radio Zamaneh, September 1, 2023
19 Radio Zamaneh, August 29, 2023
20 Radio Zamaneh, July 18, 2023
Crackdown 12
Kurdish labor activists received suspended prison sentences: Shadman Abdi
(three years),21 Khabat Mahmoudi (three years),22, Iqbal Sha’bani (two years, six
months),23 Iqbal Pishkari (one year),24 and Abdullah Khairabadi (20 months).25
Ramyar Dehdar, another labor activist, was taken into custody in Sanandaj.26
Child rights advocate Fereshteh Sadiq Sefat was arrested in Rasht.27
Retribution Against Teachers Through Mass Dismissals
Several teachers faced judicial court trials this summer due to their involvement
in union and political protests, with sentences ranging from imprisonment to job
Teachers’ unions orchestrated the most coordinated union demonstrations in
2021 and 2022. Teachers organized multiple protests amidst the “Women, Life,
Freedom” uprising in the fall and winter of 2022, and in reaction to consecutive
chemical attacks on girls’ schools, resulting in the poisoning of many students.
In these rallies and several official statements, they vehemently denounced government aggression.
Over the past year, the security forces, judiciary, and Ministry of Education jointly
launched a crackdown on teachers’ unions and their activists. The security apparatus penalized teachers for participating in demonstrations and sit-ins and
voicing their political opinions. This retaliation included: summons from security
officials, court trials, imprisonment, permanent and temporary job suspensions,
wage cuts, and forced retirements. Some of the teachers who were targeted had
over two decades of teaching experience.
The following list provides a snapshot of the punitive actions taken against teachers:
● Mihrab Farsad Mokhtari, a Nowshahr teacher, was arrested on September
● Shilan Yusofi from Saqqez was forcibly retired and faces salary decrease due
to his participation in a teachers’ rally.29
21 Radio Zamaneh, July 18, 2023
22 Radio Zamaneh, July 18, 2023
23 Radio Zamaneh, July 19, 2023
24 Radio Zamaneh, July 19, 2023
25 Radio Zamaneh, July 19, 2023
26 Radio Zamaneh, July 19, 2023
27 Radio Zamaneh, July 19, 2023
28 Radio Zamaneh, September 22, 2023
29 Coordinating Council of Teachers’ Union Organizations (CCTUO), September 12, 2023
Crackdown 13
● Mahmoud Malaki, a Bushehr Teachers Union board member, was arrested on
June 25 by security forces.30 The Supervisory Board of Administrative Violations
(SBAV) later permanently dismissed him.31
● In Alborz Province, Rahman Abedini, Lotfullah Jamshidi, and Gholamali Shahriari faced temporary dismissal, as decreed by the SBAV.32
● Safieh Basim of Karaj was forced into retirement by the SBAV.33
● The SBAV handed Elaheh Sadeghi from North Khorasan a two-month dismissal.34
● Ahmad Alizadeh, an Abdanan teacher, faced forced retirement and was also
demoted from his position.35 Additionally, the appeals court sentenced him to
three years and one day in prison.36
● Aziz Ghasemzadeh, an incarcerated Teachers Union member from Gilan, was
dismissed from his job.37
● Suleiman Abdi, associated with the Kurdistan Teachers’ Union in Saqqez, initially received a sentence of eight months in prison and 74 lashes. His sentence
was later converted to 720 hours of free teaching at the Relief Foundation, with
the flogging suspended for two years.38
● Security forces targeted the residences of Pirouz Nami, Ali Kroshat, and Siamak Sadeghi Chehrazi, and confiscated their phones following a protest from the
Ministry of Information over these union activists’ acquittal in Ahvaz.39
● Sara Siahpoush, from the Tehran Teachers Union, was sentenced to six years
in prison40 and fired.41
● Farouq Saeedzadeh, an educator and environmentalist in Marivan, was demoted and had a salary reduction.42
● Yaqub Mohammadi from Abdanan was forced into retirement.43
● Zahra Sayad Delshad, a Bandar Anzali teachers’ union activist, faced early re30 CCTUO, June 25, 2023
31 CCTUO, August 21, 2023
32 CCTUO, 28 June 2023
33 CCTUO, June 29, 2023
34 CCTUO, 7 July 2023
35 CCTUO, 10 July 2023
36 CCTUO, 17 August 2023
37 Radio Zamaneh, August 29, 2023
38 CCTUO, 20 July 2023
39 CCTUO, 6 August 2023
40 Radio Zamaneh, July 16, 2023
41 CCTUO, 27 August 2023
42 CCTUO, 10 July 2023
43 CCTUO, 11 July 2023
Crackdown 14
tirement and a job demotion.44
● Abolfazl Khoran, a Markazi Province teachers’ union member45, was handed a
complex sentence: six years and eight months in prison, 74 lashes, a two-year
exile to Delfan town, and a two-year ban on internet activity.46
● Union activists Lida Esmaili47 and Alireza Hemati48 faced penalties including
early retirement and temporary dismissals.
● Omid Afzalipour49 and Rahim Daniyali50 both educators, were handed threemonth suspensions.
● Mansoureh Sarafra51 and Ashraf Farhomay,52 both from Gilan, were forced into
early retirement with pay cuts.
● An SBAV decision permanently dismissed Mohammad Saeidi Abu Ishaghi, a
teacher in Chaharmahal and Bakhtiari Province.53
● Gholamreza Akbarzadeh Baghban, Tahmasb Sohrabi Otagwari, Taimur Bagheri Kudakani, and Hossein Mehdizadeh Falakdehi, all affiliated with the Gilan
Teachers Union, were each sentenced to three months in prison.54
● Shiva Amelirad,55 Kurdistan teachers’ union, and Fariba Onami,56 Gilan teachers’ union, were both permanently dismissed.
● Bahareh Askarizadeh, a Khuzestan union activist, faced a four-month suspension.57
● Gholamreza Asghari, an Ardabil union activist, was detained by security personnel58 and was freed on bail on September 2, 2023.
● Educators Abdullah Abd al-Maliki,59 Mahmoud Safdari,60 Amin Minaei,61 and
Arman Sohrabi,62 were all arrested, with Safdari later released on bail.
44 CCTUO, 12 July 2023
45 CCTUO, 7 August 2023
46 CCTUO, 9 September 2023
47 CCTUO, 9 August 2023
48 CCTUO, 9 August 2023
49 CCTUO, 10 August 2023
50 CCTUO, 10 August 2023
51 CCTUO, 11 August 2023
52 CCTUO, August 14, 2023
53 CCTUO, 22 August 2023
54 CCTUO, 23 August 2023
55 Radio Zamaneh, August 23, 2023
56 Radio Zamaneh, August 23, 2023
57 Radio Zamaneh, August 26, 2023
58 CCTUO, 29 August 2023
59 CCTUO, 18 September 2023
60 CCTUO, 17 September 2023
61 CCTUO, 15 September 2023
62 Radio Zamaneh, September 17, 2023
Crackdown 15
Workers’ Dismissals Amid Protests
Employers have taken disciplinary action in various workplaces against vocal and
protesting employees, often resulting in dismissals.
According to available reports, approximately 1,500 employees were laid off from
Techno Energy Sepehr Company (TESCo)63 and Alhaavi Pharmaceuticals.64 TESCo, a key telecommunication and electrical equipment provider for southern oil
and gas projects, terminated around 600 employees within 40 days.65 Company
proprietors cited production losses as the primary reason for these layoffs.
In Chabahar, several contract municipal workers lost their jobs following a protest outside the Islamic City Council building.66
At the Pooya Polymer Company in Sanandaj, four workers were terminated for
advocating for trade union rights and staging protests.67 Similarly, two employees
at a factory for Tehran’s Darugar, a manufacturer of personal care products and
detergents, were dismissed for their protest activities.68 In the energy sector, 38
Bankol oil and gas project employees were terminated following demonstrations
protesting their work conditions.69
Iran’s faltering economy has exacerbated worker dismissals. The number of affected workers is believed to be higher than in media reports.
The latest study by the Research Center of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce highlighted a notable trend. Managers from “multiple export-oriented units” mentioned implementing “workforce adjustment” due to liquidity challenges. The
term “workforce adjustment” is a euphemism for layoffs, frequently utilized in
employer communications to soften the impact of the message.70
63 Radio Zamaneh, August 6, 2023
64 Salamat News, August 14, 2023
65 Ibid
66 ILNA, July 3, 2023
67 Radio Zamaneh, July 15, 2023
68 ILNA, July 16, 2023
69 Radio Zamaneh, September 1, 2023
70 Radio Zamaneh, September 10, 2023
Protests 16
Pensioner Protests Grow in Scope
The scale and intensity of protests by retirees have also spiked. Pensioners from
various funds represented the group that protested most frequently this summer. A number of these demonstrations in several cities escalated into violence
due to police interventions. Several retirees were detained in Ardabil and Rasht.71
In Tehran, the police and security forces prevented a planned rally outside the
parliament from materializing.
Social Security pensioners demanding an enhancement in their pension benefits
were not the only ones in the streets.72Protestors’ demands included increased
pension rates, alignment of pensioner salaries with those of active workers, and
the provision of comprehensive, free medical insurance. Various groups participated in this movement: pensioners from the Iran Telecommunication Company, the Civil Servants Pension Fund, the Armed Forces Pension Fund, the Steel
Industry Employees Support Fund, and a contingent of retirees from the medical sector. The primary grievance of these groups was the government’s role in
worsening their financial hardships and perpetuating economic disparities.
The financial issues in pension funds are rooted in flawed governmental policies. Under the proposed Seventh Development Plan, the government intends to
mandate the sale of pension fund assets to bridge budgetary shortfalls, modify
regulations concerning high-risk jobs, and consolidate different pension funds.
Energy Sector Protests Intensify
On July 2, 2023, contract workers from the oil sector ceased operations at the
Khark and Asalouyeh oil terminals, voicing their discontent over poor food quality
and workplace discrimination.73 In Tehran, hundreds from the Arkan-e-Saalis oil
industry project took to the streets. Dehloran petrochemical contract workers
and Arya Sasol Polymer Company employees staged protests in Asaluyeh.74
Arkan-e-Saalis workers pressed for the elimination of intermediary human resources contracting firms, instead advocating for direct employment contracts.
These workers also called for a job classification system, better access to welfare amenities, and improved canteen conditions.
Workers of state-owned companies in the oil-rich southern regions and those
from state-operated drilling firms rallied in Tehran. Some employees of the Arkan-e-Saalis project at the Tehran Refinery were joined by their families in the
71 Radio Zamaneh, July 29, 2023
72 Radio Zamaneh, July 7, 2023
73 Radio Zamaneh, July 7, 2023
74 Radio Zamaneh, July 17, 2023
Protests 17
In Dehloran, petrochemical employees rallied outside their facility, decrying
the company’s impending closure and job cuts. They eventually escalated their
demonstration by blocking the petrochemical plant’s entrance.75
In the Special Region of South Pars, Arya Sasol Polymer Company’s workforce
and engineers staged a protest that spanned fifteen days, up to July 6, to decry
seven months of unpaid salaries.
Dissatisfied with their working conditions, the Abadan Refinery’s overhaul workers transitioned their two-day protest at the refinery to a more public setting: the
Abadan Mosque on a Friday.76
Official employees of the Gachsaran Oil and Gas Company assembled outside
the Gachsaran Oil Company’s central building, demanding the enactment of Article 10 from the Ministry of Oil Staff Regulations.77
Siraf Pishgaman Refinery’s green tank project workers, Jahan Pars contractor
employees at Bushehr Petrochemical Site Number One, and South Adish Refinery workers in Kangan all went on strike.
Lastly, the National Iranian Drilling Company’s workforce opposed the Ministry of
Economic Affairs and Finance’s decision to privatize the company.78
Other Labor Unrests
Labor-related protests spiked over the summer. Many of these demonstrations,
held as workplace rallies or strikes, were primarily driven by demands for payment of delayed wages or salary increases.
Public service sector protests prominently featured municipal workers. Their
temporary, often daily, contracts and lack of proper representation left them particularly vulnerable to labor contractors and municipal bodies. Reports emerged
from certain provinces about delayed salary payments for contract workers accumulating for six months to a year.
Employees of Iran Carton, a leading carton packaging firm in Iran, and Machine
Sazi Arak (MSA), a prominent Iranian manufacturing entity, staged extended protests. At MSA, a workplace strike persisted for over two weeks.79 While initial
media coverage overlooked the workers’ grievances, the media directed its at75 Radio Zamaneh, July 22, 2023
76 Radio Zamaneh, August 6, 2023
77 Ibid
78 Radio Zamaneh, September 20, 2023
79 Radio Zamaneh, August 31, 2023
Protests 18
tention to the protests after it came to light that the Provincial Security Council
met without the workers’ representatives. It’s worth noting that MSA is under
the umbrella of the Farhangian Reserve Fund, which is currently embroiled in a
corruption scandal.
Between July 23 and 25, 2023, contract workers from Chadormalu Mining and Industrial Company went on strike to decry wage discrepancies, substandard pay,
and inadequate health coverage. United in their cause, their solidarity pressured
both the employer and the contractor to commit to addressing their concerns.80
Another significant protest emerged from the dismissed employees of the
Agh-Darreh Gold Mine (Agdarreh Mine) in Takab County, West Azerbaijan Province, alongside jobseekers from neighboring villages. Security personnel confronted the protesters, resulting in the detention of several individuals. As of late
September, six workers remained incarcerated.81
Tehran’s metro city train conductors also voiced their concerns, rallying against
stipulations in the Seventh Development Plan. The Islamic Consultative Assembly
(Iranian Parliament) scrutinizes the draft for this initiative. Through this scheme,
the government seeks broader public service privatization, including healthcare,
and proposes alterations to labor regulations and social security, to the detriment of workers and pensioners.
The table that follows offers a summary of the labor protests during the summer.
However, it may not encapsulate all instances of dissent.
Table 2: Overview of Workers’ Protests in Summer 2023
Location/Protesting group
Dismissal Demand for
job classification
for cancellation of
Wage discrimination
Jiroft Municipality
* * 140 workers
were dismissed.
Sisakht City municipality workers83
* * The municipality
imposed additional tasks
on workers
without extra
80 Radio Zamaneh, July 29, 2023
81 Radio Zamaneh, September 7, 2023
82 Radio Zamaneh, September 20, 2023
83 Ibid
s 19
Gilan Electricity
Distribution Com
pany drivers84
* New con
benefits and
allowed the
to terminate
within 48
Iranshahr Univer
sity of Medical
Sciences employ
* Protest over
the dismissal
of 89-day
Rural Telecommu
nications Company
Chabahar munici
pality workers87
* Protest
against the
of contract
Haft Tappeh Sug
arcane Agro-Indus
try Co. workers88
Metro (city train)
* Protest
against the
provisions of
the Seventh
Plan Bill.
Dehdasht unem
ployed individuals90
* Protest
in Dehdasht
cal Company.
Bank employees91
Nasser Khosrow
bazaar peddlers92
* Protest
on peddler
Bastak City Water
and Sewage De
partment workers93
* Protest to
claim three
months of un
paid wages.
Ministry of Health
contract employ
84 Ibid
85 Radio Zamaneh, July 7, 2023
86 Ibid
87 Ibid
88 Ibid
89 Ibid
90 Ibid
91 Ibid
92 Radio Zamaneh, July 7, 2023
93 Radio Zamaneh, July 22, 2023
94 Ibid
Protests 20
Location/Protesting group
Demand for
job classification
Demand for
cancellation of
Wage discrimination
Southeast Railway
Company (Traverse Company)
* Protest
over factory closure.
Khazar Steel Company workers96
* Protest following the
death of a
worker in
a work-related
Neyshabur municipality workers97
* -
Iranshahr municipality workers98
* Protest
to claim
Rudbar municipality workers99
* * * Protest
and unpaid
Asaluyeh municipality workers100
* Protest to
claim two
of unpaid
Abadeh Cement
Company workers101
* Protest to
claim five
of unpaid
Tabriz Compressor
Company workers102
* * * Protest
over job
Pars Haft Tappeh
Steel Company
* -
Zerand Steel Company drivers104
* -
Chadormalu Mine
* * * * -
95 Ibid
96 Ibid
97 Radio Zamaneh, July 29, 2023
98 Ibid
99 Ibid
100 Ibid
101 Ibid
102 Ibid
103 Ibid
104 Ibid
105 Ibid
Protests 21
Khazar Plastic
Factory workers106
* * -
Agh-Darreh jobseekers107
* -
Khomeini Hospital
in Tehran employees108
* * * * * -
Shaygan Steel
Company workers109
* -
Iran Carton Company workers110
* * Protest
extended work
hours and
106 Radio Zamaneh, August 6, 2023
107 Ibid
108 Ibid
109 Ibid
110 Radio Zamaneh, August 20
Protests 22
Location/Protesting group
Dismissal Demand for
job classification
Demand for
cancellation of
Wage discrimination
Kerman Railway
Technical Building
* * * -
Isfahan nurses112 * * * * * -
Milad Hospital medical personnel113
* * Protest
a 50 percent wage
Refah Chain Stores
Co. (supermarkets)
* * * -
Tabas Coal Mine
* * * -
Machine Sazi Arak
Company (MSA)
* * * -
Khash municipality
* * -
Khorasan Railway
Company workers118
* * * * -
Rural Telecommunications Company
Employees in various provinces119
* * -
111 Ibid
112 Radio Zamaneh, September 3, 2023
113 Ibid
114 Ibid
115 Ibid
116 Ibid
117 Ibid
118 Ibid
119 Ibid
Informal Workers 23
Informal Workers
Seasonal construction laborers represent the majority of Iran’s informal workforce.
In August 2023, the head of the Association of Construction Workers’ Unions
highlighted delays in revising the construction workers’ insurance law which resulted in 300,000 workers losing their insurance.120 After prolonged negotiations
between the Parliament and the Guardian Council, the Construction Workers Insurance Law amendment was ratified on September 13. Per this revision, workers are responsible for seven percent of the insurance premium. Nonetheless,
only those possessing a technical license qualify for construction workers’ insurance. Employers are obliged to contribute 10 to 25 percent of total licensing fees
(fees related to building licenses, renovations, and significant repairs) towards
the insurance premiums for workers.121
Uninsured construction workers face dire risks, with many falling victim to fatal
accidents. The construction industry accounts for nearly half of all fatal workplace accidents.
In an open letter to the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Iranian Parliament), the
Kurdistan Province Construction Workers’ Association disclosed that 800,000
construction workers lacked insurance.122
Peddlers, another sizable informal workforce, are often challenged by municipal
regulations. Various municipalities constantly introduce stricter rules governing
their operations.
In Tehran, home to the largest population of peddlers, the city’s Islamic Council
advocated for removing peddlers’ stalls.123 In August, the District 12 municipality
declared its intentions to initiate the “plan to relocate peddlers.”124 In cities like
Bushehr125 and Tabriz,126 peddlers were confronted by “municipal obstruction removal” forces, leading to the confiscation of their goods.
Sales service personnel, predominantly in retail stores, eateries, and coffee
shops, comprise another segment of short-term and vulnerable workers. These
individuals are often recruited for meager salaries on a short-term basis and are
exploited without insurance.127
Other informal labor categories include fuel couriers (sukhtbars), cargo bearers
120 Khabar Online, July 29, 2023
121 Tasnim News, September 13, 2023
122 Jamaran News, July 9, 2023
123 Radio Zamaneh, July 23, 2023
124 Etemad Online, August 22, 2023
125 IRNA, July 13, 2023
126 Tabriz Municipality, August 1, 2023
127 ILNA, August 5, 2023
Informal Workers 24
(kulbars) in Baluchistan and Kurdistan, porters, home-based carpet weavers, and
motorcycle couriers. Comprehensive data regarding motor couriers and carpet
weavers remains undisclosed.
Both sukhtbars and kulbars risk their lives for basic sustenance. Kulbars navigate
perilous border regions evading border patrol while bearing substantial commercial loads on their backs, while sukhtbars transport fuel along Iran’s eastern
At least 40 kulbars sustained injuries from falls or security services’ gunfire this
summer. Over 80 percent of kulbars’ injuries, which occasionally result in amputation or permanent impairment, arise from military confrontations in border
During the same time period, reports confirmed the death of 11 kulbars. Six met
their end at the hands of military forces, while the others perished due to accidents such as falls, evasion incidents, or heart failure.128
Following the “Woman, Life, Freedom” uprising last year, the Islamic Republic of
Iran bolstered its military presence along the shared border with the Kurdistan
Region. Concurrently, the Iraqi government assumed control over its side of the
border, intensifying the risks kulbars face during their journeys.
Additionally, an undetermined number of sukhtbars in Sistan and Baluchistan
went missing during a flood.129 Reports from Hal Vash and the Baloch Activists
Campaign confirmed the discovery of at least 12 sukhtbars’ bodies who had disappeared in the floodwaters. However, the exact number of missing sukhtbars
remains uncertain.
In just three months, 57 sukhtbars lost their lives while another 29 reported injuries. Road mishaps are the primary cause of death among sukhtbars.130
128 The statistics related to the death and injuries of Kulbars have been extracted from Kolbar News website.
129 Halvash News, July 27, 2023
130 The statistics related to the death and injuries of sukhtbars have been collected from Halvash News and Baloch
Activists’ Campaign.
Immigrants 25
In June, the Islamic Republic executed two Afghan migrants on charges of “terrorist acts” at the Shahcheragh Holy Shrine in Shiraz.131 During this time, the
security apparatus of the Islamic Republic amplified anti-immigrant sentiments
through the use of state media. They attributed “terrorist acts” to migrants and
refugees without offering concrete evidence, which expedited the expulsion of
Afghan migrants.
According to Afghan news sources, the Iranian authorities repatriated over
100,000 Afghan migrants during June and July alone.132 The number of Afghans
deported from Iran between March and August 2023 is estimated to be over
In response to growing constraints on Afghan migrants, the Iranian government
declared Kermanshah province off-limits.134 In Shiraz, they also mandated that
“foreign nationals” refrain from residing near the Shahcheragh Holy Shrine.135
Over the past year, both government-affiliated media outlets and some private
sector publications have consistently fueled animosity toward Afghan migrants.
131 Radio Zamaneh, July 8, 2023
132 Khamma Press, August 30, 2023 and Tejarart News, August 3, 2023
133 Khamma Press, August 2, 2023
134 8 AM, July 22, 2023
135 IRNA, August 23, 2023
Working Children 26
Working Children
Reliable statistics regarding children who are out of school remain unpublished.
The data provided by governmental institutions is often inconsistent. Despite the
discrepancies, there’s a common thread: the rising number of children discontinuing their education.
The Research Center of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Iranian Parliament)
estimated that working children constitute 15 percent of the entire child population (those under 18 years of age). This report suggests that 10 percent of these
working children are not enrolled in school.136
Economic hardships are a significant factor driving the rise in child labor and
school dropout rates. Government reports indicate that nearly one million
school-aged individuals in Iran have opted out of formal education. The dropout
phenomenon has intensified in recent years, particularly in the aftermath of the
coronavirus crisis.