Iran: global campaign launched to free teacher union leader

Education International has called on its member organisations to take swift action to firmly protest the unwarranted six-year jail sentence imposed on Esmail Abdi, a leader of the Tehran Teacher Trade Association.

 

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. Abdi, along with three other Iranian teacher unionists, had already been unfairly detained in July 2015 to prevent them from attending the 7th EI World Congress in Ottawa, Canada. A hunger strike by Abdi and massive solidarity campaigns launched in Iran and by unions across the world resulted in his release in May 2016.

“The Iranian authorities are attempting to silence teachers’ grievances through repression and the extended incarceration of unionists and activists,” condemned EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen.

EI affiliates and concerned citizens can take action

  • Send a protest letter to the President and to the Supreme Leader of Iran (model letter);
  • Contact their governments and the diplomatic representation of Iran in their countries, 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 colleagues, union members and networks; post it on websites, Facebook and Twitter.

The latest sentence announced on 7 October by Branch 36 of the Appeal Court of Tehran 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.

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