Teachers, Environmental Activists Arrested Across Iran

Thousands of teachers, both active and retired, took to the streets in Tehran and several other Iranian cities May 10 to protest their paltry salaries and what they view as a lack of investment in education on the part of the government.

Some rallies were stormed by security forces, who beat and detained an unknown number of protesters, state-run Iran Labor News Agency (ILNA) reported.

Called for by The Council for Coordinating Teachers’ Trade Associations, the protests were held in front of the Budget and Planning Organization in Tehran and outside Education Ministry offices in other cities, including Isfahan, Divandareh, Kazerun, Kermanshah, Khoramabad, Mamasani, Marivan, Mashhadd, Qorveh, Sari, Shiraz, and Tabriz.

The protesting teachers carried banners that read “Bread, jobs, freedom, and justice in education,” and “Teachers deserve wages higher than the poverty line.” They chanted slogans including “Teachers, workers, students, unite!” and “Free imprisoned teachers!”

A board member with the Tehran Teachers Trade Association, Sediqeh Pakzamir, tweeted May 10 that several teachers had been detained during the protests in the capital, among them prominent teachers’ rights activists Mohammad Taqi Fallahi, Mohammad Habibi, Ali Zolfi, Ismail Gerami, Mohammad Hassan Poureh, and Rasoul Bodaqi, according to Ms. Pakzamir, who also tweeted that some protesters in Tehran were “savagely beaten.”

Five of those detained were reportedly later released.

“Ignoring the livelihood of teachers and retired educators and disregarding the quality of education in our schools shows that education is not a priority for the Islamic Republic’s establishment and its government” the protesters insisted in a resolution read at the Tehran rally.

Demonstrations by teachers and other low-wage workers have gained momentum in Iran in recent months. These most recent protests were unique, however, in that women were on the picket line in significant numbers, not surprising given that more than 65 percent of primary school teachers in Iran are women, according to The World Bank.

While Iran is one of the oldest members of International Labor Organization (ILO), the Islamic Republic does not recognize independent trade unions.

In the forty years since the establishment of the Islamic Republic, scores of teachers and workers’ right activists have been accused of vague “crimes” and handed long prison sentences.

Currently, prominent teachers’ rights activist and trade unionist Esmail Abdi is on hunger strike to protest his treatment behind bars and what he describes as the “criminalization of trade unions” in Iran.

In another security crackdown the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran reported on Friday May 11 that security forces in Hormozgan Province have arrested more than 40 environmental activists in various cities of the province, bringing the total number of environmental activists in jail to 55 as one activist, Mojgan Jamshidi, has observed on her Twitter page.

The Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has expressed concern about the arrests in Hormozgan, commenting on its website “almost everyone involved in the campaign to protect wildlife in Larestan area has been arrested.”

The news of the arrests and disappearance of activists first broke out in several tweets posted by users in provincial cities of Hormozgan.

Radio Farda contacted the families of some of the jailed environmental activists, but clearly intimidated family members said security officials told them not to speak to media about the cases.

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