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Djibouti: teachers are being unfairly imprisoned

Education International and the Francophone Trade Union Committee for Education and Training are demanding the immediate release of seven teachers arrested in Djibouti on apparently unsubstantiated charges.

The Comité syndical francophone de l’éducation et de la formation (Francophone Trade Union Committee for Education and Training; CSFEF), an organisation of education unions from the French-speaking world and part of Education International (EI), has received news of the arrest of seven teachers in Djibouti.

Six of them, Mohamed Samireh, Abdoul-Mahin Hassan, Youssouf Mohamed Hamid, Moussa Djama Ali, Abdourazak Ibrahim, and Kassim Abdoulkader, are accused of having disclosed the contents of the 2019 baccalaureate examination. They are still being held in custody, despite the court having issued a provisional release order, following an appeal by the public prosecutor.

Another teacher, Oumalkhaire Farah Robleh, who expressed her support for her imprisoned colleagues on social media, was given a three-month suspended sentence for defamation. She only avoided a prison sentence because she is eight months pregnant.

According to information received by CSFEF from the two education unions affiliated to EI in the country; the Syndicat des enseignants et personnels de l’éducation (SEP) and the Syndicat des professeurs des collèges et lycées de Djibouti (SYNESED), along with the Union Djiboutienne des travailleurs (UDT), these accusations are totally unfounded.

“These teachers, four of whom are union activists, are highly competent and diligent professionals working in high schools in Djibouti. They had no way of getting access to the baccalaureate exam contents in advance,” stressed CSFEF President Jean-Hervé Cohen in a press release of 23 June. “They strongly deny these accusations, which are seriously damaging to their professional standing.”

In addition to the criminal proceedings being brought against them, the seven teachers have learned that they will also face disciplinary action that could lead to their dismissal.

In a joint letter to the President of Djibouti, Ismaïl Omar Guelleh, EI and CSFEF, together with SEP and SYNESED, have demanded the immediate release of the teachers, an end to the disciplinary proceedings being brought against them, and a pledge to respect freedom of association for all teachers in Djibouti.

SEP Deputy General Secretary and founder of the Djiboutian League for Human Rights, Omar Ali Ewado, said: “…these teachers have been made scapegoats. The exam contents were never disclosed on social media. They did not attempt to bring about the 'destabilization of the education system' by posting these contents on social media.”

Unions in Djibouti are awaiting the outcome of the trial of the seven teachers, which will be announced later this week.

EI and CSFEF provide full support to imprisoned colleagues and will continue to monitor the changing situation of teachers and human and trade union rights in Djibouti.

You can learn more about the situation of teachers being unfairly imprisoned in Djibouti in this blog post written by SEP General Secretary Ahmed-Kadar Nour Ismail.