Iran: Campaign to free jailed teacher unionists gathers pace

Education International has called for the release of Iranian teacher unionists Mohammad Habibi and Esmail Abdi, while global human rights organisation Amnesty International has also called for Abdi’s release as a prisoner of conscience.

David Edwards, General Secretary of Education International (EI), has strongly denounced the arrest of Mohammad Habibi, board member of the Tehran branch of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association (ITTA), and his detention at the Evin prison. Edwards presented EI’s demands for the release of Habibi in a recent letter to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani.

Habibi was rearrested on 10 May as security forces cracked down on a peaceful demonstration called by teachers to oppose the privatisation of education and to demand fair wages. This followed his previous incarceration for 44 days following his violent arrest in front of his students on 3 March.

Hunger strike

Edwards also highlighted the case of Esmail Abdi, a math teacher and a leader of the Tehran branch of ITTA. Abdi has been on a hunger strike in the Evin prison since 24 April to protest the ongoing criminalisation of trade union activities by the Iranian authorities, as well as the unfair treatment of his case and his detention conditions. While his health is deteriorating due to his imprisonment, Abdi has been denied necessary care and medical leave on several occasions.

Release demanded

EI urges the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Habibi, Abdi, and other imprisoned trade unionists and “to end the misuse of the criminal justice system against those who peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression and association”. It further demands that the authorities ensure that the imprisoned trade unionists are not subject to ill-treatment during their detention and that they have access to professional health care.

Join Amnesty International’s campaign to free Esmail Abdi

EI invites its affiliates and concerned citizens to stand with Abdi by signing Amnesty International’s petition demanding his immediate release.

Amnesty International, which defends human rights globally, Esmail Abdi is a prisoner of conscience who has been unjustly condemned for defending workers’ rights.

While the right to form and join trade unions, the right to collective bargaining, and the right to strike are all universal human rights, workers in Iran often go without wages for three months or longer, and employers intimidate, harass, and dismiss them for protesting against their conditions.

Workers have no support from the government and, as in Abdi’s case and many others, “they are criminalised for demanding these basic rights. What's more, police violence is common at trade union protests”, Amnesty International has said.

Teacher unionists in the UK awarded Esmail Abdi the 2018 National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) International Solidarity Award, recognising the tremendous courage he has shown for the cause of Iranian teachers.

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