Education International is deeply concerned by local reports indicating that Iranian public authorities responded to a nationwide strike of teachers and education support personnel in primary and secondary schools by expelling teachers from schools and arresting education union leaders.
Mohammad Sadegh Shekari, Mohammad Reza Ramezanzadeh and Abdolreza Ghanbari are among activists arrested during the strike called on 14 and 15 October by the Coordinating Council of Iranian Teachers Trade Associations (CCITTA).
The protest action was aimed at raising several ongoing critical issues for education workers: low wages, the degradation of quality public education and the criminalisation of activists fighting for teachers’ rights.
The call for action of CCITTA was supported by teachers in more than 50 cities across the country, including Tehran, Ispahan, Mashhad, Tabriz, Amol, Gonabad, Hamadan, Ilam, Kermanshah, Marivan, Sanandaj, Saqqez and Yasuj. Teachers left their classrooms and organised sit-in actions in the administrative offices of schools. Many shared pictures of their peaceful actions on social media, where teachers held signs with slogans such as “Justice is the right of teachers” or “Free imprisoned teachers”.
In Iran, most teachers live far below the poverty line due to low wages. Cuts in education budgets, the growing economic crisis and skyrocketing inflation make their situation even worse.
Iranian teachers also denounce the low quality and underfunding of the country’s public education system, heavily impacted by privatisation and commercialisation.
Iranian authorities responded to the teachers’ demands by a systematic criminalisation of peaceful protesters and union leaders. Numerous teacher unionists, including Esmail Abdi, Mohammed Habibi, Rasoul Bodaghi, and Mahmud Beheshti Langroudi, have been subjected to harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention, unfair trials, and prison sentences.
EI solidarity with Iranian workers
In August 2018, Education International (EI) launched a LabourStart campaign to demand the immediate and unconditional release of Mohammed Habibi and the respect of trade union rights in Iran. Arrested on 20 May during a peaceful protest and since held in detention under unbearably harsh conditions, Habibi was sentenced to ten and a half years in prison on 4 August.
In October, EI and other global union federations co-signed a letter denouncing the condemnation of 17 striking truck drivers to death by a local court in Qazvin province.