More than 100 Teachers Detained for Hours for Attempting Peaceful Protest
A planned protest by teachers in front of the Iranian Parliament in Tehran’s Baharestan Square was pre-empted by security forces who detained scores of teachers who arrived to take part in it on the morning of July 22.
According to Sedigheh Maleki, the wife of teachers’ rights activist Hashem Khastar, about 131 teachers were arrested and taken to the Vozara Detention Center, “but fortunately all of them were released by sundown.”
Ms. Maleki told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the peaceful protest was planned for 10 a.m. until noon. “My husband [Hashem Khastar] called me and said the police and security forces who had been stationed around Baharestan Square before 10:00 a.m. arrested groups of teachers as soon as they got there and put them onto minibuses. In fact, no gathering took place today. They carried them all to Vozara [Detention Center].”
The Central Council of Educational Guilds recently issued a statement that they would be holding a rally in front of the Parliament building to protest the arrest of Esmail Abdi, the head of the Teachers Guild. Abdi was arrested on June 27, 2015, and has been held at Evin Prison ever since. No official reason has been given for his detainment but it appears the arrest is in connection with a 10-year prison sentence he received on national security charges by a Revolutionary Court in 2011 that arose from his union activities.
Interior Ministry Spokesman Hosseinali Amiri confirmed that a number of teachers had been arrested and later released. “Of course three or four of them who wanted to turn the gathering into a national security issue were held longer.”
A source who wished to remain anonymous told the Campaign that a number of teachers who had escaped the security forces gathered at the home of one of the teachers and heard the statement that was supposed to be read at the ill-fated rally in front of the Parliament demanding Abdi’s release.
According to Mohammad Rezakhah, who is a member of the Teachers Guild, teachers had come to Tehran from various provinces to take part in the rally, including Kurdistan, Kermanshah, Hamadan, Isfahan, Gilan, Mazandaran and Khorasan.
The teachers who were planning to gather in support of Abdi received a rare gesture of support from Member of Parliament Ali Motahhari, the maverick deputy from Tehran, who denounced the authorities for stopping the teachers from holding their protest.
“People should be free to hold gatherings as long as they do not lead to unrest, disorder and destruction,” he said. “According to Article 27 of the Constitution, demonstrations are permitted if they are not against the foundations of Islam. The law does not even mention the need to get a permit.”
Motahhari added: “If you block these kinds of gathering, you will exacerbate the problem.”
In addition to Abdi, other teachers have been arrested in recent months as well. They include Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi, the spokesman for the Teachers Guild, and Alireza Hashemi, the head of the Teachers Organization of Iran.
The last major action by teachers took place on April 16, 2015, when thousands gathered in various cities for “silent protests” calling for higher wages. Teachers in Iran are paid below the country’s official poverty line.
The arrests of the teachers reflect a broader and consistent denial of labor rights in Iran. Professional organizations face severe restrictions, strikers are often arrested and risk losing their job, and labor leaders face arrest and long prison sentences.