International Review of Social History

Special Theme – Twentieth Century Iran: History From Below

The Brickworkers of Khatunabad: A Striking Record (1953–1979)

Willem   Floor 


This article discusses the working and living conditions of unskilled labourers in South Tehran, and pays particular attention to the workers of the brick-kiln factories of Khatunabad. The brick-kiln workers, mostly transient rural workers, were among the poorest of the Iranian labour class. At the same time, in terms of sheer numbers they represented 5 per cent of the population of Tehran in 1960. They lived and worked under appalling conditions but, nevertheless, they only seldom went on strike. The brickworkers' main concern was not so much their working conditions, but rather to get and hold a job. This was difficult, because (1) they were seasonal labour; (2) they had no representative workers' organization to speak for them; (3) the way their industry was organized left them with little power; and (4) there was strong competition from other unskilled and unemployed labourers. Finally, the six known strikes by the brick-kiln workers will be highlighted, and used to discuss the context in which all Iranian workers had to operate.