Parvin Mohammadi: Long-time labour and women’s activist

Parvin Mohammadi is a 59 year old Iranian woman who is currently in hiding from authorities in Iran.

Mohammadi was born in a working class family and her formative teenage years were in the tumultuous years that led to the 1979 Iranian Revolution that overthrew the repressive dictatorship of the Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

In that year she started her first job at 18 years of age at the Melli Shoe Company which had been taken over by a parastatal organisation linked to the newly established Islamic Republic. Within two years, the workers went on strike and occupied the factory. Mohammadi was one of the leaders of the strike. The government broke the strike via the use of army tanks and Mohammadi was fired.

She then took a job as a teacher at a state-owned day care centre. After three years of working at this centre, Mohammadi was fired for protesting low wages and lack of benefits. What followed were years of insecure employment at various small factories. In 1991, she was able to secure a more permanent position at a steel factory that employed around 2,000 workers.

After seven years of employment, she was elected as the workers representative. Mohammadi then helped lead strikes against low wages and against the privatisation of the factory which would have stripped workers of their benefits. While many workers were arrested, the company closed the factory, the workers remained united and were able to publicise their strike widely. In the end, the workers were able to regain their jobs and Mohammadi escaped any punishment as she was extremely popular with her fellow workers.

In 2009, Mohammadi joined the Free Union of Iranian workers which gave her a national platform. In 2010, she organized the collection of 40,000 signatures from workers for a labour petition against low wages and for an end to contract work/temporary work. Mohammadi then helped to organise the May Day demonstrations in 2010, and in early 2011 was elected to the Executive of the Free Union of Iranian workers, a post that she still holds today. She then went on to create the Organization of Retirees of the Social Security Department that defends the rights of retirees, and exposes corruption and extortion in the Social Security Department.

During the last 20 years, Mohammadi has been summoned by the security police, arrested and interrogated on numerous occasions. Just before May Day in 2019, Mohammadi was arrested again and charged with sedition. She was released on bail, faced constant police harassment, and in late December 2020, she was sentenced in absentia to a year in jail. Mohammadi then went into hiding.

During all these years of struggle, Mohammedi has never separated the struggle of workers from that of women’s struggles. Women workers continue to fight for both and Mohammadi continues to emphasize that labour rights and political rights are intertwined. There are also currently two other women members of the Free Union of Iranian workers who have each received five-year prison sentences. They are Nahid Khodajoo and Nasrin Javadi Khezri.

An international campaign in support of these women is ongoing.

If you want to help defend Mohammadi and other Iranian women labor leaders, you can start by sharing or reprinting this article and sending letters to the International Labor

Organization at: [email protected]