Esmail Abdi – an Iranian maths teacher and trade unionist – was arrested on 27 June 2015 after voluntarily going to Evin prison to ask why he’d been banned from travel.

He was planning to attend the global union Education International congress to advocate for quality education for all in Iran. But instead he was locked away in solitary confinement for 40 days without being charged and without access to a lawyer.

After an unfair trial he was sentenced to six years. The conditions in the notoriously brutal Evin prison – also known as Iran’s ‘torture factory’ – are taking a harsh toll on his health. He has already needed medical leave once, but he is now being refused care.

Esmail has now been on hunger strike since 24 April to protest his treatment and the criminalisation of trade unions.

Innocent man

Esmail has done nothing wrong.

He fights against poor wages, Iran’s inadequate education budget, and the unjustified imprisonment of teachers and other trade unionists.

He organises peaceful protests and petitions the government to uphold workers’ rights. For this he has been harassed by his government for over three years, accused of “spreading propaganda” and committing “crimes against national security”.

Esmail is a prisoner of conscience and must be freed immediately.

Crackdown on trade unions

The International Trade Union Confederation has ranked Iran a ‘category five’ country – the worst level for a non-failed state – because there is no guarantee of workers’ rights.

The right to form and join trade unions, the right to collective bargaining and the right to strike are all universal human rights.

By contrast, in Iran workers often go without wages for three months or longer, and companies intimidate, harass and dismiss them for protesting.

Workers have no support from the government and, as we’ve seen in Esmail’s case and many others, they are criminalised for demanding these basic rights. What’s more, police violence is common at trade union protests.

To mark Esmail’s bravery, teachers in the UK awarded Esmail this year with the NASUWT International Solidarity Award, recognising the tremendous courage he has shown for the cause.

Please stand with Esmail by demanding his release today.

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