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Iran Protests: The Significance of Oil Workers’ Strike

On Monday, workers at a petrochemical complex in Asaluyeh, southern Iran, went on strike. Their colleagues in the Abadan oil refinery also joined them on Tuesday. Four weeks into the major Iran protests, the oil and petrochemical workers’ strike is considered a turning point.

This is not the first time oil workers, mainly contract oil workers, have gone on strike. But previously, they staged protests and demanded their rights. Their demonstrations were quashed, and many deprived workers were arrested or laid off. Yet, Iranian oil workers joined the nationwide uprising and popular “regime change” demand.

Initially sparked due to the death of a 22-years-old Kurdish girl in police custody, Iran protests have now morphed into a revolution, with people demanding nothing less than regime change. Protests have persisted despite the regime’s heavy crackdown.

The first turning point of Iran’s uprising was Saturday’s protests, with students joining them. These protests happened a few days after the bloody crackdown on innocent prayers in Zahedan and after the regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei threatened Iranians while praising his oppressive forces.

Iran’s uprising experienced what many consider its second turning point when the contract oil workers began their strike for several reasons:

  • Considered the regime’s main source of income, the oil industry’s shutdown or partial shutdown delivers a major blow to Iran’s ruling theocracy. In other words, workers control the regime’s most important economic lifeline.
  • Iran’s workers are among the most oppressed and underprivileged sectors of society. The regime’s corruption and ineptitude have turned Iran’s society, and particularly the workers’ community, into a powder keg. Iran has nearly 15 million workers, who form a large part of the population with their families. Thus, workers joining the uprising seriously threaten the ruling theocracy.
  • These workers have nothing to lose due to the regime’s corruption and plunder of their wealth. Their participation in the current uprising means protests have entered a new era.
  • Iranian oil workers have their unions and are among the most organized sectors due to their history of defiance. Thus, they could more easily organize protests and strike, and the rapid spread of strikes is a testament to this fact.
  • It is worth noting that during the last months of the Shah’s regime, the Iranian oil workers’ strike in 1979 delivered an irreparable blow to the regime. The international community did not sanction the Shah’s regime, yet the workers’ strike seriously damaged its economy.

In a nutshell, the strike by contract oil workers reaffirmed the Iranian people’s unwavering resolve to overthrow the ruling theocracy at any cost. The regime plunders the Iranian nation’s wealth to prolong its rule through the export of terrorism abroad and domestic oppression. The world community should increase its pressure on the regime and help Iranians achieve their rights.