Interview with Iranian Refugee Socialists

UID-DER, which launched a signature campaign to end repression of Iranian working class, met with socialist refugees and migrant workers from Iran in May Day demonstration. Iranian workers who were carrying banners that read “Workers of all Lands, Unite”, “Free Political Prisoners and Arrested Workers’ Leaders” were also carrying placards that contain pictures of imprisoned workers’ leaders such as Reza Shahabi. There were also placards carried by UID-DER contingent expressing solidarity with Iranian working class. The slogans “Stop Repression of Iranian Working Class”, “Free Arrested Workers in Iran”, “Long Live International Solidarity” were written in both Turkish and Farsi. Iranian working class is under increasing repression. Working and living conditions of workers is getting worse. Workers are banned from getting organised and involved in union and political activities. Those workers and particularly the leading ones who try to found unions and carry on work for their own class interests face heavy repression. The Mullah regime arrests, tortures, imprisons, hangs workers and their leaders. Iranian socialist refugee workers who were forced to escape from their country participated in May Day demonstration and tried to make the voice of the persecuted Iranian working class and those workers’ leaders who were kept in prison some of whom are not even given healthcare heard. We interviewed Muhammed Ashrafi, one of these refugees.

UID-DER: Welcome. Welcome to the contingent of workers who support UID-DER, welcome to May Day Square.

Muhammed Ashrafi: Thank you. I extend my May Day greetings to you and workers here.

UID-DER: Thank you. You are political refugee workers, can you tell us about your situation?

Muhammed Ashrafi: We are Iranian refugees here. We escaped from the dictatorship and government in Iran. Our worker friends are now in prison. One of them received 20 years of sentence, another one 11, another one 6, another one 7 years. Most of them are in terrible prisons. And in order not to be put in prison we had to escape from the country. Now we are here in May Day and want to make our friends’ voice heard, and also want to get help. Islamic Republic persecutes people, hangs and kills workers. It is forbidden to found unions, get united, found political parties… When people seek their rights, seek justice, they take them to prison and torture them. There is no freedom, nobody is free. We wish world workers help us. We want freedom in Iran. We want justice, we want workers to be able to found their unions and parties.

UID-DER: The situation is outrageous indeed. You are coming from Iran where there are enormous injustices and persecution. And you are refugees here, and we are sure you have many difficulties here. Can you tell us about that?

Muhammed Ashrafi: We have got many difficulties here. All refugees are in great difficulty, we have no money. Turkish police says “you have no right to work”. So we cannot earn money because we are not permitted to work. How can we get money and make ends meet? We are sent money, raised from Iran for us to make a living. Here we refugees try to subsist on 200-300 liras. We pay 200-300 liras for rent. Sometimes refugees have to eat one meal in two days. I mean they cannot find food to eat as they are not permitted to work. We could arrive here, but many of us could not, because they could not find money to escape.

UID-DER: We are happy to be together with you here today. And we are very sorry for your friends who could not come here. We hope to overcome these problems through international solidarity. We hope to live in a beautiful world together. As UID-DER we launched the campaign “Stop Repression of Iranian Working Class” and collected thousands of signatures. Many trade-unionists, intellectuals and artists signed the petition giving their support. We wanted to offer our support to the workers in Iran who are oppressed and exploited. We wanted the Iranian trade-unionists who are not even given medical treatment to be released. What do you think about this campaign?

Muhammed Ashrafi: I know your signature campaign. As Iranian workers we thank you for that. I want to say something more: our idea is that the world will be beautiful when workers build their own government. And if workers want to found their own government they should know that there are no separate roads. They have to unite in socialism. Capitalism is in such a situation that it is unable to give what people want. It is undergoing a deep crisis. And to overcome its crisis it incites wars everywhere in the world, kills people. It seeks to prevent workers from getting united and divert us from our path. But I am aware of that, and the workers in Iran are too. So then we have to build our own relations, so that all people, all workers can unite. This is absolutely necessary. They have to found their own government. Socialism is the only way!

UID-DER: You explained it very well. Workers must get united and fight. It is only organised struggle that will emancipate us from this system of exploitation. Today is 1st of May, and we are in the May Day Square. We are advancing our organised struggle. And you are with us here now. To be in the streets and squares together with all the workers of the world simultaneously and to be with workers who support UID-DER right here… How do you feel about that? 

Muhammed Ashrafi: May Day is a sign of workers. Workers must unite if they want to achieve their rights. But not only in May Day. We have to be united all the time like in May Day. Then we will be able to do everything we want and get everything we want. Then we can conquer the world. We made a revolution in Iran 33 years ago. Imperialism came along and hoodwinked us, so derailed us. We made a mistake by leading workers behind Khoumeini. We said that Khoumeini was against imperialism, that he was anti-imperialist. But he wasn’t. Afterwards imperialism massacred us through Khoumeini. Our unions, parties were totally wiped out. Now we are suffering from these mistakes and losses. Therefore I want workers of the world not to go behind imperialism and capitalism. Imperialists and capitalists, they are all the same, there is no difference between them. Workers of the world should have their own independent front and organisations. They have to fight capitalism, declare war against capitalism. Only this way they can achieve their rights.

UID-DER: Are you happy to be here? Workers in Turkey are now crying out against the bosses, rulers, oppressors here. And you are with us.

Muhammed Ashrafi: Yes this makes me happy very much. I am happy to be here. I am with my genuine friends, genuine comrades. I am together with my comrades across the world, and particularly with my Turkish comrades. We are here to make the voice of my friends in prison heard.

UID-DER: Thank you. We are happy that you are with us here. See you again…

Muhammed Ashrafi: Thanks a lot. I thank you, workers and fraternal peoples of Turkey very much. Long live!

5 May 2012