Teachers’ struggles in Iran for pay equity, enhanced retirement benefits as well as free public education, an end to the privatization of education and persecution of teacher unionists and freedom of imprisoned teachers have been continuing incessantly in recent months. On October 14, 2021, teachers in nearly 50 cities organized rallies and demonstrations called by the Coordinating Council of Iran Teachers’ Trade Associations.
In addition to the economic demands of teachers, we have witnessed growing outrage with continued prosecution and imprisonment of teachers. Presently, we have the following teacher activists in prison for various Trumped-up charges by the intelligence ministry and the judiciary of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
At present, we have confirmation that the following teacher activists are imprisoned : Esmail Abdi, Mohammad Hossein Sepehri, Zeinab Hamrang, Hashem Khastar, Mohammadreza Ramezanzadeh, Hossein Hassan Khani, Yaghoub Yazdani, Gholamreza Kondazi, Nahid_Fathalian, Nosrat Beheshti, Mehdi Fathi and Masoumeh Asgari, Mehdi Farahi Shandiz, Javad Lal-Mohammadi, Hojatullah Rafiei and Mohamamd Arkian. Mr. Aziz Ghasemzadeh, a spokesman for the Gilan Teachers’ Trade Association, and a popular artist, was arrested on September 26, 2021 and temporarily released on bail on October 11, 2021.
Please also refer to the attached IASWI’s statement, dated May 17, 2021, about the situation of Esmail Abdi, a member of the board of directors of the Tehran Teachers’ Trade Association who has been incarcerated for nearly six years.
These teachers have not committed any crime and their continued detention, in addition to spreading fears, is aimed to deter teachers from their legitimate demands and exercising their internationally recognized right to organize and freedom of opinion and expression.
Expulsion of Mohammad Habibi
Mohammad Habibi is a member of the board of directors and spokesperson for the Tehran Teachers’ Trade Association. The Board of Appeals of the Ministry of Education has in recent days announced the final verdict against Mr. Habibi. The Board has ordered the forced expulsion of Mohammad Habibi, with a compensation option ; therefore he would never be able to work as a teacher within the public education system in Iran.
Mohammad Habibi was violently attacked and arrested by security forces on May 20, 2018 along with a number of other union activists and participants during a teachers’ protest and transferred to the Greater Tehran Prison. He was later sentenced by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, headed by Judge Ahmadzadeh, to seven and a half years in prison on charges of “conspiracy to commit a crime against national security”, and to 18 months in prison on charges of “propaganda against the system and disturbing public order”. He was also sentenced to 18 months in prison, 74 lashes, and additional punishment of two-year ban from political and social activities and leaving the country for “disturbing public order”. The seven and half year’s sentence was finally upheld in December 2018 by Branch 36 of the Tehran Court of Appeals, presided over by Judge Ahmad Zargar. Mr. Habibi was released early on November 10, 2020 after serving about three years in prison.
The expulsion of Mohammad Habibi, as a leading figure among teachers in Iran, is part and parcel of continued suppression of teachers’ movement in defence of public education and the right to organize. Education International and many teachers’ organizations around the world had previously campaigned for the release of Mohammad Habibi while he was incarcerated. Those campaigns were instrumental in the release of Habibi before the end of his seven and half years prison sentence.
We condemn the continuous repressive treatment of teacher activists and trade unionists in Iran and demand immediate and unconditional release of all imprisoned teacher activists and the annulment of the new expulsion verdict against the spokesperson of Tehran Teachers’ Trade Association, Mohammad Habibi.