Iran’s relentless intimidation and harassment of teachers shows no sign of abating. Indeed, the worsening situation has caused human rights defenders to speak out about a crackdown by the government of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi’s Centre for the Defenders of Human Rights issued a report saying that there was a noticeable increase in pressure on student activists, unionists and teachers. Along with many arrests, prominent university professors have been sacked for “alternative thinking” and hundreds of students have been banned from studying for “political or ideological reasons.” On 14 December 2007, nine Iranian teachers were sentenced to 91 days imprisonment by a criminal court of the province of Hamadan for participating in peaceful protests to demand labour rights and decent wages. They were among the thousands of Iranian teachers and academic workers who participated in a spirited nationwide movement to denounce the terrible working conditions and pitiful livelihoods to be made in education. The government’s response was swift and violent: threats, beatings, arrests, dismissals, and suspensions. Unfortunately, the Iran Teachers Trade Association reports a continuing pattern of abuse. ITTA figures show that more than 700 teachers who were identified with last year’s protests have suffered pay cuts. Another 86 teachers have been suspended and 39 more teachers have been banned from their classrooms. It gets worse: The union has also gathered evidence that 286 security files have been opened on teachers who were arrested during the protests. Security forces also seek to intimidate union officials, and to prevent them from seeking membership in Education International. Mohammad Khaksari, the ITTA representative who attended the EI World Congress in Berlin last July, was arrested at the airport upon his return to Tehran. He was released, but his passport was confiscated. He has been abducted two additional times since. Khaksari was summoned to court last October to face charges of “conspiring and acting against the national security by participating in illegal gatherings and providing information to the country's enemies.” He was condemned on 2 January 2008 by the Tehran Revolutionary Court to a one-year suspended prison sentence. If he commits any crime within two years, the suspended sentence will be enforced. Khaksari is not the only teacher unionist facing harassment. Aliakbar Baghani, the Superintendent of the Teacher's Trade Association, is experiencing similar attacks. Both men’s apartments were raided and their computers were taken away, along with all the documents relating to their organization’s applications for membership in EI. “The situation of teachers is not getting better,” Khaksari said. He and colleagues tried to meet their parliamentary representatives, but only three members agreed to meet. “Teachers, trade unionists and students are treated as if they were criminals,” he said. EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen said the international trade union movement is watching the situation in Iran with a great deal of concern. EI is considering sending an international mission to Iran to assess the situation of teachers and their unions, and to pledge EI's support for their legitimate struggle to improve teaching conditions in Iran.