EI wrote to the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on 16 March condemning the harsh repression and arrest of hundreds of teachers who were protesting on 14 March for better pay and working conditions.
Over 300 teachers arrested on 14 March
Over 300 teachers were arrested in the protests that took place on 14 March in front of the Parliament following hours of futile discussions with government representatives the day before.
Among the arrested were the heads of several teachers associations and the Co-ordinated Council of Cultural Workers Associations including Superintendent of the Teachers Trade Association of Iran, Ali Akbar Baghani, Association Spokesperson, Mahmoud Beheshti Langroodi, and the Superintendent of the Iranian Teachers' Association, Alireza Hashemi, as well as four Superintendents of Young Adult Schools and a reporter from "Teacher’s Pen" who was reporting on the situation.
The teacher protesters were transferred by bus to the Intelligence Office on Vahdateh Eslami Street and then transferred to the Evin Prison. Some of the women arrested were released upon their husband's claim.
The teacher associations and the Co-ordinated Council have appealed to both the general public and attorneys to help secure their release.
Hundreds of Anti-riot Police Stood Guard Since Dawn
Hundreds of anti-riot police and military forces were standing guard since daybreak on 14 March. Pedestrians in the area were all assumed to be protesters and were not allowed to step on the sidewalks. When groups of teachers dared to do so, they were immediately assaulted by the anti-riot guards.
As the numbers of arrests grew, teachers first held in a vacant lot at a dilapidated school nearby were eventually transferred to the basement of a government building. The military forces had tight control over most of the Parliamentary area in all directions. They stopped anyone whom they assumed looked like a teacher, or anyone engaging in conversation.
In order to flee the danger in front of the Parliament, teachers gathered outside the Education Ministry on Gharani Street at 1 o'clock in the afternoon. To their surprise, the armed forces standing guard in the area caught them and after a severe beating, held them in the Hotel Marmar across the street from the Ministry.
Education Minister Mahmood Farshidi Denies Knowledge Of Any Arrests
Reporters arriving at the scene at 2 o'clock to interview the Education Minister Mahmood Farshidi were shocked at the number of troops stationed there.
Farshidi repeatedly denied any knowledge of the arrests and he stated that if teachers are looking for money, they might as well change their career. He even referred to himself as the best Education minister the country has ever had.
Teacher arrests were not restricted to the capital. After the arrests on 13 March 2007 in Kermanshah province of Heshmati, Tavakkoli and Sadeghi of the Kermanshah Teacher Trade Association, a member of the Board of Directors of the Academic Association of Kermanshah, Mr Hirani, was also arrested. In addition, three teacher activists in city of Rasht in Gilan province were summoned ny the Intelligence Service.
In view of the recent developments, a meeting was held in the Co-ordinated Council on 14 March. They have announced a strike on 16 March, and if their needs are not responded to, they will protest once again on 18 March.
EI reminds the Iranian authorities is that the arrests on 14 March is a clear violation of Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It urges the president to secure the immediate and unconditional release of all teachers and their representatives detained and open serious negotiations with the teacher representatives on their longstanding request for improved wages and respectable working conditions.
Below is EI's letter dated 16 March 2007 in English:
His Excellency Mahmoud Ahmadinejad President Islamic Republic of Iran Palestine Avenue, Azerbaijan Intersection Tehran Islamic Republic of Iran
Brussels, 16 March 2007
I write to you on behalf of the 30 million members of Education International (EI) in 169 countries to condemn the harsh repression and arrest of hundreds of teachers who were demonstrating throughout Iran for decent living wages.
Iran is a longstanding member of the International Labour Organisation and is therefore requested to adhere to the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work which guarantees the freedom of association and right to collective bargaining. These rights apply to trade unions as well as to professional associations, such as the various teachers' associations active in Iran.
Teachers are protesting to uphold their right to a decent living wage. Quality education for children requires teachers who are well trained, adequately remunerated and provided with good working conditions, so that they may do a good job in the classroom. By organising protests in front of the Parliament and the Education Minister, teachers and their union representatives were requesting the opening of fair negotiations. EI positively welcomed the announcement of the meeting at the Parliament on 13 March. Unfortunately, the meeting showed the disregard of the Iranian authorities for social dialogue and for the trade union rights enshrined in international labour standards. This prompted teachers to resume their protest actions.
The arrests of hundreds of teachers on 14 March also clearly violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, namely article 20 which states that "Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association" and article 9: "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile."
EI therefore urges you, Mr. President, to:
- Secure the immediate and unconditional release of all teachers and their representatives detained in the context of the teacher protests;
- Open serious negotiations with the teacher representatives on the longstanding request for improved wages and respectable working conditions;
- Ensure that, in future, the right of teachers and workers’ organisations to exercise their activities and to hold meetings relating to the conditions of work and economic and social policy be respected.
EI would welcome a positive response on these requests, and will, in the meantime, continue to monitor the situation in Iran.
Fred van Leeuwen General Secretary
Copies sent to: Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei Golam-Ali Haddad-Adel, Leader of the Iranian Parliament – Fax: +98 21 646 1746 Hon Mohammed Jahromi, Minister of Labour – Fax +98 21 6693 1062 Hon. Manouchehr Mottaki, Foreign Minister – Fax +98 21 667 31 49 Ambassador Mohammad Reza Alborzi – Fax: +41 22 733 02 03 ILO – ITUC