Freedom for Iranian teacher union leader Esmail Abdi

Education International calls on its members to take action and protest against the six-year jail sentence imposed on Mr. Esmail Abdi, a leader of the Tehran Teacher Trade Association. The sentence was announced on 7 October by Branch 36 of the Appeal Court of Tehran.

Education International (EI) has informed the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran that the charges, including one for “assembling and colluding against national security”, are unjust and contravene various human right conventions, including those protecting freedom of expression and association, as well as the right of unions to be consulted on education policies. Mr. Abdi, along with three other Iranian teacher unionists, had already been unfairly detained in July 2015 to prevent them from attending the 7th World Congress of Education International in Ottawa, Canada. A hunger strike by Mr Abdi and massive solidarity campaigns in Iran and in unions across the world resulted in Mr. Abdi’s release in May 2016.

This latest re-sentencing comes at a time when the regime’s neoliberal policies have created a crisis in the country’s educational system and for teachers’ living conditions. The privatisation and commodification of education have destroyed any remnants of equal opportunity or free education in Iran. Many students, especially girls, from low income families in rural and nomadic areas are practically banned from accessing education, with reports showing that over 3.5 million students are unable to attend school.

Iranian teachers are continuing to teach despite being deprived of their basic rights. Teachers’ wages are often below the poverty line. Iranian teachers’ nationwide protests and strikes over the past years, demonstrate their strong demands for systematic change. Every year, as many as 150,000 highly skilled Iranians emigrate. Many do so as a result of high unemployment, but political oppression and lack of religious freedom are also determining factors in emigration.

The authorities are attempting to silence teachers’ grievances through repression and the extended incarceration of unionists and activists.

Education International invites your organisation and its members to take action now:

  • Send a protest letter to the President and to the Supreme Leader of Iran (a model letter is attached).
  • Contact your Government and the diplomatic representation of Iran in your country, requesting that they begin a dialogue on these issues with the Iranian authorities.
  • Individuals can petition the authorities through the LabourStart appeal
  • Give visibility to this appeal by recommending it to your colleagues, union members and your networks; post it on your website, on Facebook and on Twitter.

EI thanks you for your solidarity in support of our Iranian colleagues.

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