Tuesday, 15 January 2008
Mr Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias,
President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
Dear Mr President:
We hear the news of the release of two of the FARC's hostages with renewed hope for the future of Colombia. The release of Clara Rojas and Consuela Gonzalez is not only a joyous event for their families but a development with great potentials for Colombian society.
Even the most right-wing news agencies in the world acknowledge Your Excellency's crucial role in negotiating the release of these two captives. The negotiation process that you have gone through has been a difficult one - requiring uncommon patience on Your Excellency's part. We sincerely hope that many more people will be reunited with their families and friends through your positive intervention in bridging the communication gap between the FARC and the Uribe government.
Your Excellency, we believe that your negotiation and persuasion skills can be put to further use in the release of captives in other parts of the globe. In particular, as you have developed very close relations with successive Iranian presidents, we hope that you can use your influence to help free the genuine trade unionists, democrats and socialists locked up in Iran.
Today there are many workers, students, women and journalists in Iran's prisons. In December 2007 around 40 students were arrested for demanding freedom, liberty and singing the Internationale. Over thirty of them are still in prison - with rumours that Saeed Habibi may have committed suicide. Iran's jails are also full of labour activists who have tried to set up trade unions and organise workers in their struggles to improve their pay and conditions. Mahmood Salehi and Mansour Osanloo are two such organisers. Salehi, who has just one kidney, is in a critical state. He was arrested in 2004 because he tried to organise a May Day rally. Osanloo is the leader of the Vahed Bus Company trade union. He tried to re-launch the trade union and raise the workers' low wages. He was beaten up by vigilantes connected to the regime and imprisoned.
Your Excellency, we believe that your close relations with the Islamic Republic's leaders, together with your undoubted persuasion skills, can help free these prisoners. These are not criminals: they are people who merely protested for better rights for workers, students, women, journalists and other sections of society. We are sure that your intervention in this regard, with a government that is much friendlier to Venezuela than Uribe's Colombia, can bring about a positive outcome.
Iranian Workers' Solidarity Network
Workers' Action Committee (Iran)
Militaant, journal of revolutionary socialist youth in Iran
January 13, 2008