Iran Reformist Tries to Enlist Labor and Teachers

Iran Reformist Tries to Enlist Labor and Teachers
By ROBERT F. WORTH
New York Times

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The Iranian opposition leader Mir Hussein Moussavi released a video statement on Thursday calling on workers and teachers to join the reformist cause, in a bold new attempt to broaden and energize the country’s flagging protest movement.

The statement came as groups representing laborers and teachers called for demonstrations, and a labor coalition issued its own list of economic grievances to mark International Labor Day, on May 1, opposition Web sites reported.

Mr. Moussavi and other opposition leaders have previously urged workers and teachers to join them, but not as directly or as urgently. Now the possibility of laborers taking to the streets — as they did during the 1979 Islamic Revolution — has rattled the hard-line establishment.

On Wednesday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, issued a veiled warning to workers not to allow themselves to be politicized, saying “the enemy has tried to use the workers as a leverage against the Islamic regime” in the past, but had always failed, according to the semiofficial ILNA news agency.

In his video appeal, Mr. Moussavi said the challenges workers faced — low wages, inflation, economic mismanagement and the inability to create independent organizations — were also essential grievances of the Green movement, as the opposition calls itself.

He urged the creation of a united front against government malfeasance and injustice, and even linked President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s foreign policy to workers’ circumstances. “The government’s illogical actions have a direct effect on what the people of Iran can put on their table,” Mr. Moussavi said.

Workers’ and teachers’ groups have often demonstrated and issued grievances on Labor Day, but their cause has been distinct from that of the reformists, who — at least until last year — were led largely by students, intellectuals and former government officials. Ali Akbar Baghbani, the director of the largest Iranian teachers’ union, and Mohammad Beheshti Langaroudi, the union’s spokesman, were arrested and taken to Evin prison this week, according to the BBC’s Persian service. They were briefly imprisoned last year at this time.

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