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Iran’s Tudeh Party announced that the security forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran arrested a number of leaders and key activists of the Tehran Public Bus Transportation Company Trade Union on Dec. 22-23.

The transit union, launched last June, is widely regarded as the first independent trade union to be established in Iran since the early 1980s. The government has officially recognized only “Islamic Labor Councils,” organizations that operate on the basis of ideology and religious affiliation, as legal representatives of the country’s workers.

The Tudeh Party said the arrested trade unionists were charged with “attempting to disturb public order through industrial action and strike and attempting to form an illegal trade union.”

Such charges have no legal basis, the party said. At the same time, it said, “The arrest of trade union activists, who have formed a legal and open trade union in order to pursue their natural and legal rights and who have not committed any action violating the laws and regulations of the country, is not an isolated event.”

The party said the arrests were part of a broader repressive pattern: “This oppressive move against progressive trade unionists is a part of the present government’s general plan to gain control of and suppress the trade union movement in Iran. This follows the government’s recent harassment and intimidation of progressive writers, journalists, intellectuals and student activists, including their detention and arrest. The attack against the trade unions is part and parcel of the government’s oppressive moves against all social movements.”

It called on all democratically-minded people to call or otherwise contact the embassies and diplomatic missions of the Islamic Republic of Iran in their respective countries to demand “the immediate release of all arrested trade union leaders and activists and a guarantee of freedom of activity for all independent trade unions campaigning for the rights and demands of their members.”

In the United States, protests can be directed to the Interests Section of the Islamic Republic of Iran at 2209 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington D.C. 20007, phone (202) 965-4990, fax (202) 965-1073.