Poetic fundraiser for Shahrokh and Reza


Over 35 people braved through the cold and dark of a January evening in London to listen to six poets reading their work in support of Shahrokh Zamani, Reza Shahabi and all jailed labour activists in Iran.

The fundraising poetry and spoken word evening on January 10, organised by Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL) and Iranian Workers’ Solidarity Network (IWSN), was a great success – raising awareness about the plight of Iran’s labour activists, collecting money for the Free Shahrokh and Reza campaign as well as playing a part in boosting the morale of jailed activists.

The proceedings were started by Gemma Short of AWL who explained that Shahrokh and Reza had merely tried to work as trade unionists and they had ended up with long jail sentences and subjected to mistreatment in jail. Shahrokh Zamani has been in prison in Iran since 2011, sentenced to 11 years for trade union activities. Shahrokh is part of the paint workers’ union in Tehran. Reza Shahabi has been in prison since 2010 for his trade union work. He is the treasurer of the Tehran’s Vahed bus workers’ union. Both have been tortured whilst in jail, have had to resort to hunger strikes and have medical conditions which require treatment. The Free Shahrokh and Reza campaign is planning various activities in their defence, including collecting of 10,000 signatures.

Gemma Short

Gemma Short

Morad Shirin of IWSN gave a brief report on the general economic and social situation in Iran, the regime’s continuing repression against labour activists, and their continuing torture even when in jail. He also highlighted the critical condition of Behnam Ebrahimzadeh, a teacher who has been active defending workers’ rights and the rights of children – particularly child labourers. Although Behnam has served four out of his five-year sentence, a kangaroo court recently increased his sentence to nine and a half years. He has been on hunger strike since December, protesting about his and other prisoners’ treatment.

Morad Shirin

Morad Shirin

We then had the first of our poets, Grim Chip, who warmed up the room with his energetic delivery and set the scene for other poets.


Grim Chip

Next was Emily Harrison, whose poems included a moving piece about the psychological effects of 12-hour-long night shifts.

Emily Madsen

Emily Harrison

Then Janine Booth read her Sonnet for Shahrokh and Reza as well as a number of poems about the New Year, hating Tories and so on.

Janine Booth

Janine Booth

Tim Wells followed with poems that included a piece about a working class man and his middle class girlfriend.

Tim Wells

Tim Wells

Attila the Stockbroker’s many poems included UK Gin Dependence Party and Asylum Seeking Daleks.

Attila the Stockbroker

Attila the Stockbroker

We closed with the poems of Michelle Madsen, including Duty Free which described how this airport does not employ or involve the working class communities surrounding it.

Michelle Madsen

Michelle Madsen

The audience and poets took away petition sheets that will help us reach the target of 10,000 signatures. The next activity in this campaign’s event calendar will be the ILO picket on Friday, January 16.

Iranian Workers’ Solidarity Network
11 January 2015

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