Iran: Government must halt ongoing violations of educators’ rights

published 21 December 2021 updated 10 October 2023

Education International and its member organisations urge the government of Iran to allow teachers to exercise their right to request fair pay and the release of jailed colleagues without fearing violence or arbitrary arrest. The call follows the arrest of a teacher trade union leader and the ongoing detention of others.

On 13 December, teachers and educators in 110 cities across Iran staged sit-ins to protest against poor living conditions and low salaries.

As one of the most organised labour sectors in the country, teachers have been holding large protest gatherings for years voicing their various demands, including:

  • Fair wages
  • The release of jailed labour leaders
  • Promised health insurance and retirement benefits
  • Ending discrimination within the education system
  • Curbing the privatisation of education and maintaining free public education
  • Repairing school buildings

During the sit-in, teachers held placards reading:" Free education is the right of all students", "Prisons are no place for teachers", "The imprisoned teachers must be released", "Strikes, demonstrations and trade unions are immutable rights", "Teachers stand firm and resist discrimination" and "Teachers experience discrimination, injustice and poverty."

The EI affiliate, the Coordination Council of Iranian Teachers’ Trade Associations also indicated that “neither the government nor the Parliament have shown any attention to our demands”. Instead, a reduced budget has been announced for the upcoming budgetary period.

“In the budget, allocations to military and unaccountable institutions have increased manifold, while the livelihood of most people, namely teachers, have been ignored,” the council went on to deplore.

Condemn arrest of Iranian teacher trade union leader

Education International’s General Secretary, David Edwards, voiced the concerns of the global education trade union federation. “We strongly condemn the arrest of Iranian teacher trade unioninists and demand their immediate and unconditional release,” he emphasised.

Dozens of peaceful teachers’ rights advocates are currently imprisoned in Iran on charges that reflect the criminalisation of the expression of dissent opinions, peaceful protests and assembly, and independent labour activism.

Between 2014 and 2019, at least four teachers were given the death sentence for alleged activities against the state, and three of them were executed: Hadi Rashedi, Hashem Shabaninejad and Kurdish teacher activist Farzad Kamangar.

Education International’s Executive Board resolution

On 1 December, the Executive Board of Education International passed a resolution on Iran, demanding the release of Esmail Abdi and other arrested trade union leaders. There is a particular and urgent concern for Abdi’s health, which has been severely affected after long imprisonment in dire conditions.

The resolution also reiterates that the Iranian government must respect the "rights of teachers and education workers to organise and to freedom of association and freedom of speech including the right to peaceful assembly, without fear of intervention by the authorities".

The Executive Board also called on member organisations to join Education International’s call for an immediate release of Esmail Abdi and other imprisoned leaders and to join Education International’s efforts to ensure safety and wellbeing for their family members.

For several years now, Education International has been monitoring the difficult situation of trade unionists and educators in Iran. It has also led campaigns for the release of teachers and others who have peacefully asserted their rights.