Interview with Mansour Osanloo

Over the years we’ve posted about the repression of trade unionists by the Islamic Republic of Iran, especially the persecution of the leader of the Tehran bus workers’ union, Mansour Osanloo.

Osanloo was in and out of jail in Iran a number of times before going into exile in Turkey. He is now in the US, where he was interviewed by Sohrab Ahmari of The Wall Street Journal Europe. (The article is behind a paywall in the US but free in Europe.)

For May Day, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s Twitter feed has been featuring photos of the ayatollah visiting a factory and tweets like this one: “Working & endeavoring are respected by #Islam and Islam’s attention to #workers’ rights & their high status is based on this lofty outlook.”

Those sentiments would be jarring to any Iranians whose attempts at organizing labor have run up against the theocratic regime’s hostility to workers’ rights. Consider Mansour Osanlou, who in 2005 founded the Islamic Republic’s first independent trade union, the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Co. Workers’ Syndicate, representing more than 17,000 bus drivers in Iran’s capital. He won better wages and working conditions for his drivers, benefits that they retain to this day. But the triumphs came at a terrible price: Mr. Osanlou says he was imprisoned, tortured and lost two family members to the fight.