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Heard This Week - 08/16/2007

Heard in Iran This Week
on Radio Farda

(Washington, DC -- August 16, 2007) Radio Farda covered the labor movement in Iran and the worldwide "day of action" for the release of labor activists Mansour Osanlou and Mahmud Salehi; analyzed the role played by the Revolutionary Guards in light of the possibility the U.S. may declare it a terrorist organization; and aired an interview with a senior State Department official discussing U.S. views on the use of capital punishment in Iran as well as the country's detention of Iranian-Americans.

� Western media reported on August 15 that the United States is considering declaring Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) a foreign terrorist organization. In an interview aired by Radio Farda, Mohsen Sazegara, a founder of the IRGC who later became an outspoken critic of the Iranian regime, talked about this organization's impact on domestic and foreign policy in Iran. The IRGC was created as a people's army to defend the country, Sazegara told Radio Farda, but has now been supplemented by two additional armed units -- the Basij militia and the Qods Force. Sazegara told Radio Farda the Basij is used to attack demonstrations and repress domestic dissent, while the Qods Force is involved in activities abroad and suspected of involvement with international terrorism. The IRGC interferes in the political domain, Sazegara said, in a manner similar to the Communist Party in the former Soviet Union, and can jail dissidents. Moreover, Sazegara said, the IRGC controls hundreds of companies and has extensive business and investment holdings (

� Radio Farda's weekly roundtable program, "Viewpoints" on August 10 focused on the challenges faced by Iranian workers who try to organize independent labor unions. Parviz Ahmadi-Panjaki, the Chairman of the Board of Islamic Labor Councils of Tehran told Radio Farda the government does not even tolerate these Islamic councils. Tehran-based workers' rights analyst and journalist Siamak Taheri said that the main problems faced by workers are poverty and unemployment, which make organizing labor unions of primary importance. Low wages and Iran's rising rate of inflation have caused the number of impoverished and marginalized people to increase, Taheri added. Taheri said the obstacles faced by union organizers go beyond just violations of International Labor Organization (ILO) rules to accusations that workers seek to overthrow the government.. Journalist Behrouz Ghezelbash told Radio Farda that the workers' rights have been a "plaything of governments" over the past several decades, shifting with every change of government. Ghezelbash asserted that workers should have the right to organize independent unions (

� On August 9, protesters in several countries gathered outside Iranian embassies to call for the release from prison of labor organizers Mansour Osanlou and Mahmoud Salehi. Radio Farda provided extensive coverage of these demonstrations, broadcasting interviews with protesters in Oslo, Helsinki, Stockholm and Gothenburg and airing reports by correspondents in Sydney, Frankfurt, Berne and Paris. The rallies were organized as part of a worldwide day of action to free Osanlou and Salehi, called by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions ( Radio Farda's website provided visitors photo galleries from demonstrations in support of Osanlou and Salehi held in Austria, Australia, Thailand, India, Norway, Nepal, Indonesia, Japan, England and Switzerland (

� During an interview aired by Radio Farda on August 9, International Transport Workers' Federation General Secretary David Cockroft called the recent arrests of labor activists Mansour Osanlou and Mahmoud Salehi "unnecessary and provocative harassment" of people who are defending their rights to organize. They are not politicians, Cockroft said; "it's about time that the Iranian government realize that and stop taking outrageous, unnecessary actions" (

� On August 8, Radio Farda's Human Rights Magazine aired an interview on August 8 with U.S. Deputy Under Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Erika Barks Ruggles, who expressed her concern about public executions in Iran. Barks-Ruggles told Radio Farda, "We have heard reports that 29 individuals have been executed on charges such as being a public menace, for theft or rape or kidnapping or immoral behavior, which we do not believe justify capital punishment." Barks-Ruggles also stressed that human rights are a significant component in U.S. foreign policy concerning Iran. Barks-Ruggles also expressed her hope that the Iranian-Americans being kept against their will in Iran will be freed in the near future: "These individuals are international scholars and journalists visiting their relatives. We hope the government will release them soon" (

For more on these and other stories about Iran, please visit: -- Radio Farda's Persian-language website -- "Focus on Farda" bi-weekly review -- "RFE/RL Iran Report" weekly analysis -- RFE/RL English-language coverage of Iran

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