On May 24, a massive explosion and fire at a newly inaugurated oil refinery in Abadan led to the deaths and injuries of an unknown number of workers. The explosion, caused by technical problems, occurred during a facility inauguration ceremony that had prompted President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to boast of Iran's growing capacity to refine oil. According to Hamid Reza Katouzian, head of the Energy Commission of the Majles, Iran's parliament, "experts had forewarned that the Abadan refinery was not ready to be inaugurated." The explosion underscored once again the lack of safe working conditions in Iran's oil and petrochemical industry. In addition, recent labor strikes have challenged the industry's reliance on temporary contracts for its labor force. In March, 1,800 contract workers at the Tabriz Petrochemical Complex demanded that they be hired directly in order to receive the benefits and job security provisions to which permanent employees are entitled. In April, 1,500 striking workers at the Imam Khomeini Port Petrochemical Complex in Khuzestan made similar demands.
Baghdad has ordered the expulsion of Mujahedeen Khalq (or People's Mujahadeen Organization), armed wing of the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), following an April 8 raid on Camp Ashraf, the group's stronghold. The NCRI said 34 people were killed when Iraqi security forces attacked the camp 65 kilometers northeast of Baghdad. The government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has has given the estimated 4,500 members of Mujahedeen Khalq and their families until the end of 2011 to leave Iraq. "This organization must be removed from Iraqi territory by all means, including political and diplomatic, with the cooperation of the United Nations and international organizations," Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh said. (World Tribune, NCRI, April 14)
Workers at two major industrial enterprises in Iran's southern province of Khuzestan are on strike, according to a report on Radio Farda, Persian-language service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The report says some 1,500 employees of the Imam Port Petrochemical Complex have been staging gatherings in front of the company headquarters since April 9 to demand their work contracts be concluded directly with the plant's management rather than with contractors. The Free Union of Workers in Iran told Radio Farda that 1,000 workers at the Pars Paper Mill in southwestern Iran similarly launched a strike on April 9, protesting the dismissal of 60 workers who were on temporary contracts with the factory. (RFE/RL, April 12)
Call for Active Opposition to the Nuclear Policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Fukushima completed the warning that was issued by Chernobyl. After Chernobyl, any trust in the ability of technology and the technicians to control the radioactive giant was lost. Fukushima further destroyed any trust in the ability to forecast earthquakes and other factors that turn nuclear power stations into ticking time bombs.
Iranian opposition websites say more than 200 people were arrested March 1 while attempting to protest in Tehran, with another 40 detained in Isfahan. Opposition groups had called for rallies over the reported imprisonment of their leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi. The two men had been placed under house arrest several weeks ago as authorities cracked down on protests staged in solidarity with the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere. Their families say that on Feb. 28 they were taken to prison, although the government denies this. (BBC News, March 2)
Tens of thousands of protesters battled security forces in Tehran Feb. 14, leaving at least one dead. Amid clouds of tear gas fired by police and pro-government militiamen, the protesters marched down a central boulevard shouting "Death to the dictator," "We are all together," and "Down with Taliban, in Cairo and Tehran!" Dozens were arrested for participating in the banned rally. Similar protests and clashes are reported from Isfahan and Shiraz. (WP, Feb. 15)
Iran said Feb. 11 that Egyptians have achieved a "great victory," after it was announced that President Hosni Mubarak had stepped down. "A new Middle East is taking shape, not the Mideast the West had planned for but one which has been created based on Islamic awakening," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast, speaking on the 32nd anniversary of the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. "The movement and uprising that has been created in the region will definitely disturb the equations in the world today." (AFP, Press TV, Feb. 11)
A Canadian-Iranian writer credited with starting the blogging movement in Iran faces the death penalty over his work, two watchdog groups said Sept. 23. Hossein Derakhshan was arrested after returning to Iran in November 2008 and charged with "collaborating with enemy states, creating propaganda against the Islamic regime, insulting religious sanctity, and creating propaganda for anti-revolutionary groups," according to the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE) and PEN Canada. According to the two organizations, prosecutors are now calling for Derakhshan to face the death penalty after he was convicted by Tehran's revolutionary court earlier this year. "The proposed sentence is a travesty," said CJFE president Arnold Amber, calling on the Canadian government to intervene. (AFP, Sept. 23)