Iran: Education International demands an end to all violations of human and trade union rights!

published 14 September 2023 updated 19 October 2023

This September 16th, 2023 marks one year since the murder of Jina Mahsa Amini at the hands of police in Iran. Her death sparked widespread protests across Iran and gave rise to the Woman Life Freedom movement. Since then, the repressive state apparatus has worked to silence all dissent, increasing its attacks on Iranian citizens, teachers, and unionists and incurring in serious violations of human and labour rights and civil liberties.

Teachers and education institutions have been the target of increased repression and control because of the large participation of young people in the protests. The global education community demands the release of all imprisoned teacher trade unionists and calls on the Iranian authorities to respect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all workers, including the freedoms of association and speech, as well as the right to engage in peaceful assembly without state interference.

Click here to sign the petition calling for the release of all teacher trade unionists!

Poisoning female students

During the nationwide protests for Woman Life Freedom, hundreds of gas poisonings were reported in girls’ schools. Education International joined forces with its member organisation in Iran - the Coordinating Council of Iranian Teacher Trade Associations - to document 358 instances of chemical attacks. Read the report here.

From December 3, 2022, to April 29, 2023, there were 358 chemical attacks on 325 girls’ schools. Some schools were attacked multiple times. Deputy Director of Health Ministry, Saeed Karimi, announced on March 13, 2023, that 13,000 students had been treated during the chemical attacks on schools. Additional attacks occurred from March 13, 2023, to April 29, 2023. The exact number of injured students has not been announced. There are concerns that similar attacks may happen again when the school year resumes on 23 September.

The ruling powers demonstrated a notable lack of responsibility by failing to provide a clear and transparent response to this alarming situation. The poisoning of girls’ schools aimed to suppress resistance and instil fear in families, leading parents to keep their daughters at home and disrupting their education.

Attacks on teachers and their unions

For years, Iranian teachers have been voicing their legitimate demands for decent working conditions and the recognition of their fundamental rights and freedoms as workers and as citizens. Since May Day 2022, several teacher union leaders have been unjustifiably arrested, detained, and tortured for conducting peaceful and legal union activities.

"Imprisoned teacher union leaders have not violated any national or international laws. Their arrest, imprisonment, torture, and continued detention are a violation of the fundamental right of workers to freedom of association and expression."

David Edwards | Education International General Secretary

In recent weeks, Iranian authorities cracked down on teachers and their union representatives to suppress a resurgence of last year’s rallies for the first anniversary of the extrajudicial killing of Jina Mahsa Amini.

Education International is particularly concerned about the situation of the following individuals, listed by affiliation to regional teacher associations. All provincial and county teachers’ associations belong to the national umbrella Coordinating Council of Iranian Teachers’ Trade Associations which is EI’s affiliate:

  • Alborz provincial Teachers’ Trade Association: Masoud Farhikhteh
  • Tehran Teachers’ Trade Association (including Eslamshahr county): Esmail Abdi, Rasoul Bodahi, Mohamad Darkesh, Jafar Ebrahimi, Mohammad Habibi, Zeinab Hamrang, Farzaneh Nazaranpour, Fatemeh Tadrisi, Mohammad Taghi Falahi, and Sara Siah Pour
  • Kurdistan provincial Teachers’ Trade Association:
  1. Diwandareh county Teachers’ Trade Association: Omid Shahmohamadi
  2. Marivan county association: Shiva Amelirad, Eskander Lotfi, Shaban Mohammadi, Tahsin Mostafa, Massoud Nik Khah, and Sayvan Solaymani.
  3. Sanandaj Teachers’ Trade Association: Loghman Afzali, Mokhtar Asadi, and Majid Karimi
  4. Saqez county Teachers’ Trade Association: Solaiman Abdi
  • Bushehr provincial Teachers’ Trade Association: Mahmoud Melaki
  • Khorasan Razavi province Mashhad county Teachers’ Trade Association: Hashem Khastar and Ateke Rajabi
  • Khuzestan provincial Teachers’ Trade Association: Pirouz Naami
  • Isfahan province Shahreza county Teachers’ Trade Association: Hamid Rahmati
  • Gilan provincial Teachers’ Trade Association: Anoush Adeli, Fariba Anami, Aziz Ghasemzadeh, Hasan Nazarian and Mahmoud Sedighipoor
  • Fars provincial Teachers’ Trade Association: Mohammad Ali Zahmatkesh, Abdolrezagh Amiri, Asghar Amirzadegan, Moghan Bagheri, Zahra Esfandyari, Mehdi Fathi, Abolfal Khoran, Gholamreza Gholami Kondazi, Iraj Rahnama and Afshin Razmjoo
  • Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiari province and Shahrekord Teachers' Trade Activist: Mohammad Saeedi Abul al-Shaghaqi
  • Khorasan Shomali province Esfarayen county Teachers' Trade Activist: Saeid Motahari

These union leaders have faced a series of severe violations of their rights since May 2022, including:

  • Arrests and detentions, often in solitary confinement for extended periods;
  • Torture to extract false confessions and force renunciation of union work;
  • Prolonged detention beyond the initial prison sentences;
  • Exorbitant bail amounts, some as high as $50,000, for temporary release;
  • Inadequate access to medical treatment;
  • Limited access to legal counsel;
  • Restricted family visitation rights;
  • Spreading of false information about them on social media;
  • Harassment of their family members;
  • Facing unreasonable charges;
  • Transfer of judicial cases to the Islamic Revolutionary Court, typically reserved for highly political cases;
  • Dismissals from teaching positions;
  • Demotions and salary reductions.

These actions represent various forms of illegal and unsubstantiated harassment.

Education International has launched an urgent action appeal, calling on its member organisations across the world to mobilise in solidarity with Iran teacher unionists. Click here to find out more and raise your voice in support of colleagues in the Islamic Republic of Iran!

On September 6, Education International also submitted a protest letter to the Iranian authorities, calling for an urgent medical leave for Jafar Ebrahimi, a Board Member of the Coordinating Council of Iranian Teacher Trade Associations. Unjustly imprisoned for his legal union activities, Ebrahimi has been in jail for the last 20 months. During this time, his health has deteriorated significantly and he is now at risk of losing his sight if not given immediate access to proper medical care. Find out more here.

The global trade union movement stands with the people of Iran

On September 12th, the Council of Global Unions that represents over 200 million workers worldwide, released a statement condemning the escalating violations of trade union leaders' and activists' human and labour rights and civil liberties by various Iranian authorities.

“The CGU expresses deep concern about the intensification of repressive measures targeting teachers, journalists, trade union activists, student activists, and women's rights defenders. We denounce this repression and urgently call for its cessation, thereby enabling trade unionists to defend and uphold workers' rights in Iran, a cornerstone of any democratic society.”

Council of Global Unions

Click here to read the full statement from the Council of Global Unions.