The recent arrest of a teacher and board member of the Tehran branch of the Iranian Teachers' Trade Association (ITTA) at his school starkly illustrates the continuing persecution of teacher unionists in Iran.
On 3 March, Mohammad Habibi was arrested at his school, and according to local reports his arrest was violent. They claim security forces used pepper spray and handcuffed him in front of his students. He was first taken to his home, which the police allegedly searched, and then seized some of his personal belongings. Habibi was subsequently detained at the Evin prison.
His family has not received any information about his whereabouts and health. Authorities have not yet provided any motive for the arrest.
Habibi had already been threatened in the past for his role as trade union leader.
Various regional and provincial branches of the Iranian Teachers' Trade Association (ITTA) immediately denounced his arrest; the latest episode in a long history of the Iranian authorities criminalising trade union activities.
Education International (EI) condemns Habibi’s incarceration as well as the continued imprisonment of other Iranian education unionists. Teacher trade unionists known to be behind bars are Mohammad Beheshti Langeroudi and Esmail Abdi, the leader of the ITTA Tehran branch. Abdi was unjustly sentenced to six years' imprisonment by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Court.
Education International, with LabourStart, have launched a campaign urging Iran’s public authorities to release Abdi and other trade unionists detained for their legitimate trade union activities. You can participate here
Iran playing cat and mouse with unionists
While condemning the arrest of Mohammad Habibi, EI welcomes the release on March 13th of Reza Shahabi, treasurer of the Syndicate of Workers of Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company.
Reza Shahabi however must pay a fine of 68 million Iranian rials (about 1.500 EUR) and is not permitted to take part in any union or political activities for two years. Last year,EI joined the International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) and other global unions in denouncing the inhumane detention conditions of detained unionists in Iranian prisons.