Iran: Understanding the truck drivers’ nationwide strike

Al Arabiya

From September 23 we have been witnessing a new round of strikes launched by truck drivers throughout Iran and the movement quickly gaining a nationwide spirit. This is the fourth episode of such protests by truck drivers and owners in the past four months alone.

Understanding the potentially crippling impact of these strikes, able to literally bring the Iranian regime’s economy to a standstill and force it to its knees, a senior Iranian regime official on Saturday resorted to accusing the drivers of committing crimes and even voicing threats of execution for those continuing these protest strike.

This alarming development in itself resembles the Iranian regime’s very fragile rule and the days of Tehran’s rulers coming to an end.

Slow start

The first round of this protest movement was witnessed on May 22nd. Of course, Iranian regime officials resorted to their known tactics of deception and hollow promises, allowing authorities to bring this strike to an end on June 8th.

As the World Cub began during this period, news report shifted away from these protests. However, the truckers’ strike registered their demands and paved the path for the second round of such protests beginning in late July.

It is interesting how this second round of protests and strikes by Iran’s truck drivers made its way into joining the second major episode of the Iranian people’s nationwide uprising. The cities of Shapur in Isfahan Province, Karaj, Shiraz and Rasht were hosts to the most significant protests.

August 11th marked the day when this second round of the truckers’ nationwide strike in Iran began fading. All the while, the Iranian people’s protest movement made two specific advances with other branches of society joining the strike, including railway workers, and major rallies regaining force in the cities of Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, Karaj, Arak, Homayunshahr, Ahvaz, Qahederijan, Mashhad, Najaf and Qarchak.

All these developments acted as yet another reminder and wake-up call for Iranian regime authorities regarding the potential of such protests and how the Iranian people’s uprising continues to pose a major threat for the entire regime.

The Iranian truckers’ third round of protests showed how this movement has the ability or organize, plan and pursue their demands. (File photo: Reuters)

 

Advances

In the second round of their nationwide strike, Iranian truck drivers were able to – without issuing a public call to coordinate their measures – boost the Iranian nation’s uprising a major step forward.

Protests across many cities continued, reminding the general public and the world of how the Iranian regime cannot provide for the population’s basic needs. Employees of the renowned Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Company in Khuzestan Province were able to force their employers to appoint their desired representatives to the company council.

The Iranian truckers’ third round of protests showed how this movement has the ability or organize, plan and pursue their demands in a very coordinated manner. This approach impacting the Iranian people’s broader protests, injecting an organized spirit and resulting in new concerns for the ruling clerical regime.

Launching on August 25th, the trucker’s third round of this nationwide strike saw the drivers expanding their organized protests from loading terminals to holding rallies outside of provincial town halls.

While Iranian authorities were able to yet again resort to deceptive measures to bring an end to the truckers’ new protests, September 23rd marked the latest re-launch of this initiative. Amazingly, this movement has spread to over 250 cities across the country in the span of just one week.

Concerning now for the regime is the undeniable political crisis engulfing the Iranian regime alongside the general public’s living conditions sinking to drastic and intolerable lows.

Conclusion

The Iranian people are proving time and again that the Dec/Jan uprising is very much alive and active. Truck drivers across Iran, continuing their nationwide strike, are playing a major role – at times described as an engine – keeping this movement up and running, and igniting further hope in the society.

Without a doubt this protest movement has proven its potential of sparking massive nationwide protests and launching an uprising against the ruling clerics.

The past four months are proving that the circumstances inside Iran have the potential of transforming even the simplest civil protests into major political rallies shaking the very pillars of this regime.

And considering the increasing nature of sanctions against Iran’s clerical rulers and their entire apparatus, this regime will never again have the capacity to overcome this growing wave of social unrest and dissent.

ANALYSIS: Amid widening protests, time to side with Iranian people

Tuesday (June 5) marks the 15th consecutive day of a nationwide strike launched by tens of thousands of truck drivers in Iran. Video footage and still images widely circulated on social media indicate both the vast scope and organized nature of this movement, two characteristics causing major concerns for the Iranian regime.

As truckers in nearly 300 cities across the country continue to emphasize their rightful and long-neglected demands, colleagues throughout the globe are displaying sympathy and solidarity. This is one very effective method of both taking measures against the Iranian regime’s unjust rule and standing alongside the Iranian people’s just cause.

The Teamsters, known as one of the largest labor unions in the United States and the world over, issued a very powerful message recently in support of Iranian truckers.

“Iranian truck drivers in 25 provinces and 160 cities have been on strike over low pay, rising operating costs, increased tolls and other regulatory fees. #Teamsters stand in #solidarity with our Iranian brother & sisters!” said Teamster General President James Hoffa in a letter to Abolfazl Mehrabadi, deputy director of the Iranian regime’s interest branch at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington, D.C.

Taking a step further and boosting the Iranian truckers’ efforts even further, Hoffa emphasized that the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, representing the voice of 1.4 million transportation and supply chain employees across the US and Canada, also “stands in solidarity with our Iranian brothers and sisters.”

“We urge the government of Iran to listen to the grievances of the striking Iranian truck drivers, address their just demands and recognize their internationally recognized rights to assembly, speech, freedom of association and collective bargaining,” Hoffa added.

Objectives

Iran’s truck drivers are raising a series of demands they have been pursuing for several years now, including:

– A 35 to 50 percent increase for haulage charges. Iranian regime authorities are reportedly promising a 20 percent increase and truck drivers are refusing to back down, encouraging their colleagues to stand firm.
– Retirement pensions to be provided after 25 years of hauling goods.
– Their field of work being recognized and classified as harsh and demanding for the drivers, paving the path for further pensions.
– Decreasing insurance bills. Many of Iran’s truck drivers are unable to receive medical care because of such high fees.
– Decreasing supplementary fees, such as road tolls and commissions demanded at a high number of terminals (without abiding by any specific framework).
– Decreasing the price of spare parts, spare tires and fuel.
– The head of Iran’s truck drivers/owners union resigning as the protesting drivers complain he is not standing up for their rights and instead implementing the authorities’ will.
– Iranian police and other authorities ending their repressive measures against the drivers.

Further measures upsetting the truckers include authorities compelling them to install tracking devices on their vehicles. Not only are the truckers forced to pay for related expenses, they are complaining of how the regime’s only security forces, intelligence authorities and the regime-controlled National Oil Company benefit from the data provided through these trackers.

As the truckers have stood firm, daily reports from inside Iran indicate people from all walks of life joining their ranks. Taxi drivers in several cities throughout the country are adding their voice to the truckers demanding higher wages, protesting the skyrocketing price of spare parts and seeking a considerable raise in social welfare premiums.

Since Saturday chicken farm owners in numerous cities including Amol, Sardasht, Miandoab, Meshkin Shahr, Maraqeh, Hamedan, Yazd, Arak and Semnan are reportedly holding rallies outside governors’ offices protesting skyrocketing prices of chicken food and their industry being on the verge of bankruptcy.

People are affected by tear gas fired by anti-riot Iranian police to disperse demonstrators in a protest in Tehran on Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017. (AP)

 

Broader concerns

Iran’s security forces are seeing this crisis escalate as truckers and taxi drivers are taking measures to resist oppression, spreading calls and seeking solidarity and unity in their effort and seeing such measures spread extensively on social media.

This indicates a growing number of people are becoming informed and realizing the importance of uniting against the regime. And this is exactly what Tehran seeks to prevent. Clashes are reported from Isfahan and Shiraz, as truckers from smaller towns sought to join the ranks of their colleagues in larger cities to voice their demands in a stronger tone.

Remarks heard from officials show the regime is feeling the pressure. “Haulage fees have already been increased up to 20 percent and the problem of truckers’ subsidies addressed, but meeting their other demands takes time,” the Iranian regime’s Roads and Urban Development Ministry Deputy Abdol-Hashem Hassan Nia said on May 31. These remarks came after senior officials realized they cannot merely neglect the truckers’ demands and how the economic impact began kicking in for the regime.

To this day, the truckers are showing no intention to back down and have flatly rejected promises made by regime officials, promising to continue their initiative until authorities meet their demands. There are also reports of truckers from southern Iran heading toward Tehran, the capital, on Monday to have more people hear their reasonable and legitimate demands.

Iran is home to nearly 370,000 trucks delivering goods across the country. An increasing number of drivers are realizing how they have tolerated their unjust conditions far too long and now is the time to stand firm, knowing their voices are heard by the international community.

As the United States and its partners in the Middle East – and eventually Europe – are realizing and adopting a firm policy vis-à-vis the Iranian regime, one very effective and necessary initiative is to stand shoulder to shoulder with Iran’s protesting populace.