To be called “Iran’s Lech Walesa” probably very badly hurt Mansur Osanlu, head of the Tehran bus drivers’ union and the best known labor leader in Iran. The regime knows that a free labor movement is dangerous to its hold on power. So it was that Osanlu was jailed by the regime–and now has been forced into exile.
In an interview with Radio Free Europe, Osanlu revealed that he had fled into Turkey three months ago. He explains that the human rights situation in Iran is getting worse “day by day,” and that his life was threatened.
We were trying to bring unity among various workers groups in order to reach a solidarity society or a workers federation, I had become very active in this since last year and It didn’t remain secret from [authorities] who would send me all kinds of messages and threats,” Osanlu said. “They had told my two bailsmen who had secured my release from prison in 2011 that I should present myself at the prosecutor’s office or at the prison. All of these events in addition to the information I received that there were discussions to kill me, hit me with a car, or do some similar to the chain killings [of intellectuals] — I was also told by friends that it wasn’t right for me to stay in Iran — made me reach the conclusion [that I had to leave].
With elections around the corner in June, repression in Iran has been increasing. That Lech Walesa was able to stay in Poland (like Havel in Czechoslovakia) but Osanlu must flee to save his life is a measure of that repression. The concentration on nuclear negotiations with Iran sometimes obscures that the real problem is not the weapons but the regime itself, and any negotiated deal that makes that regime more secure and extends its life would contribute to repression in Iran and instability in the entire region. In the end Iran’s aggressive support for violence and terror in the Middle East, and indeed well beyond it, will end when the Islamic Republic itself is replaced by a democratic government in Iran.