Massive teachers strike underway in Iran

CODIR calls for solidarity from the trade union and labour movement internationally

Since December 2021, Iranian teachers and education staff – including retirees – and their representatives in the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association (ITTA) have been engaged in a new rolling industrial action and public protests for proper recognition of their profession; an according uplift of their wages and terms and conditions; and an end to the systematic neglect of the country’s increasingly dilapidated schools and state education sector.  Despite the Islamic Republic regime’s intransigence in the face of these demands, and its default recourse to intimidation and persecution against the campaigners, the protests have continued and are actually gathering in momentum and strength, with huge rallies now taking place – much to the dismay of the authorities in Iran.  CODIR has been closely following these important developments…

On Saturday and Sunday, 29-30 January, teachers and educators from all over Iran co-ordinated in a massive nationwide sit-in protest and refused to attend to their classrooms or online teaching sessions in response to a rallying call by the Coordinating Council of Iranian Teachers’ Trade Associations (CCITTA).  This major action, followed by a huge rally taking place today (Monday 31 January), is the latest culmination in the ongoing protest campaign being undertaken by teachers and educators in Iran against the authorities’ refusal to enact and give effect to the ‘Skills Classification Bill’ and in pursuit of their legitimate demands – which have gone unheeded for years already.  This round of collective action has been going on since the beginning of December 2021.  The CCITTA, in a statement issued on its official Telegram channel following the previous nationwide rally on 14 January, stated that “If the demands are not heeded, the Coordinating Council will put [further] strikes and wider rallies on its agenda [and], if necessary, school classes will end and [we will] declare a general strike.”

According to published and reports – including material, photographs, and video clips released by the Coordination Council – protest sit-ins were held on Saturday in schools in more than 250 cities, districts, and villages across Iran.  The following day, according to the same sources, the same took place in more than 300 cities, districts, and villages.  This two-day action has been hailed as a significant success for protestors in this particular sector, and a major milestone in the history of such protests in the over-forty-year reign of the Islamic Republic.

The protests did not go unanswered by the Islamic Republic’s repressive security apparatus.  A statement from the ITTA branch in Marivan regarding the arrest of one of its leading activists, Mr. Sha’ban Mohammadi, was published by the CCITTA   The statement confirmed:  “This morning, Sunday 30 January, a number of agents of the intelligence and security forces raided the house of Mr. Sha’ban Mohammadi, a teacher activist and a member of the board of directors of the Marivan Teachers’ Trade Association.  They arrested the union activist and transferred him to an unknown location.”  The CCITTA have confirmed the arrests of several of their number of its activists as well as an upsurge in harassment and threats against teacher activists and those supporting the ongoing campaign of industrial action.

“Mr. Mohammad Habibi, the official spokesperson of the CCITTA, yesterday (Sunday 30 January), commented on the increased intimidation of the teachers and the testing of their resolve, and said:  “The point remains that despite his [Mr. Sha’ban Mohammadi’s] arrest and the pressure on trade union activists, which is aimed at stopping the sit-ins and rallies, it is actually having the opposite effect…  As I said, today, the [nationwide] participation in the sit-ins was much higher than even the day before.”

The news regarding Mr. Mohammadi follows on a few days after the similar arrest and detention of the head of the Tehran branch of the ITTA, Mr. Mohammad Fallahi, previously reported by CODIR.

*  As this statement went to publication, CODIR was made aware of the developments that have occurred in relation to today’s (Monday 31 January) nationwide rally following the two-day sit-in at schools across the country.  Heeding the call of the CCITTA, coordinated assemblies and protest gatherings took place in most major cities throughout Iran.  This was despite a significant ratchet-up in countermeasures, including arrests and intimidation, by the Islamic Republic’s security forces.  The increased severity in the regime’s response towards those partaking in today’s protests – the third day of the national action – was noted by the CCITTA and observers to the campaign.  Seven ITTA activists were detained by regime security forces throughout the day, including Mr. Jabar Doosti, of the Marivan ITTA, and Mr. Mohammad Ali Zahmatkesh and Mr. Ghahreman Hatami, both of the Fars Province ITTA.

CODIR while declaring its continued unequivocal support for the current struggles of Iran’s teachers and education workers in pursuit of their legitimate demands and trade union activities, calls upon the international trade union movement and democratic and freedom-loving forces around the world to stand in solidarity with them and support their courageous and righteous campaign for change. 

Furthermore, the success of the teachers’ strike will also act as a great signal to the long-oppressed working people of Iran that the regime is not immune to popular protest and far from invincible – thus raising the spectre of more momentum and a co-ordinated cross-sector campaign for the realisation of their demands and redress of their deeply-held grievances.

CODIR calls upon all trade union and progressive organisations around the world, and particularly those in the teaching and education sector, to protest in writing (via the Iran’s embassies and diplomatic missions) against the harsh repression meted out by the Islamic Republic authorities towards Iranian teachers and those engaged in legitimate industrial action and trade union activities.  Letters of protest should also demand an immediate positive response by the authorities to the teachers’ demands as well as the unconditional release of their imprisoned colleagues.

For further information or any queries please email codir_info@jamshid-ahmadi

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