"We do not understand the word 'discussion'. Your pressures have no effect on our decision-making. Whether you are present or absent, it makes no difference in our minds." This was a statement proudly pronounced by Koohkan, one of the two members of the Iranian Parliament who met with the teacher representatives on 13 March.
"The meeting at the Parliament turned out to be the most futile meeting ever, far beyond the teachers' worst assumptions," said a disappointed Beheshti Langroodi, spokesperson of the Teacher Trade Association of Iran.
Contrary to what had been announced, the teacher representatives were met by only two members of Parliament who did all the talking. There was no one from the Ministry of Education and only one representative from the Planning and Budget Organisation, who remained silent the whole time. However, there were three representatives from the Security and Intelligence Ministry, as well as three representatives from the military forces.
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the teachers' pay and working conditions. The teacher delegation was there to argue for the adoption of a budget line to allow the enactment of the National Public Service Bill, also known as Pay Parity Bill, which would guarantee an improvement of the teachers' salaries.
The protest action was suspended on 13 March because of the meeting at the Parliament, but disappointed teachers may now decide to continue with the protest and/or industrial action. There are over 30 different teacher associations in Iran and they are grouped under an umbrella organisation, known as the Coordinated Council of Cultural Workers' Associations (Showrayeh Hamahangi).
Meanwhile, three members of the Teachers Association of Kermanshah, one of the provinces in the western part of Iran, were arrested on 12 March at night for unknown reasons. One of them was to represent its province at the meeting at the parliament. Their arrest is probably connected to their intervention at a demonstration by 3000 academics on 9 March in Kermanshah.
On 9 March, EI wrote to the Iranian authorities to invite them to enter into dialogue with the teacher associations and to release immediately and unconditionally teacher representatives arrested during their protest.
EI has no member organisation in Iran, but is in contact with the Co-ordinated Council of Cultural Workers' Association and the Solidarity Center in Iran, and will continue to monitor the situation.
Click on the links below to download EI's letter to the government of Iran dated 9 March 2007.