Peyman Haj-Mahmoud Attar, the lawyer for the Teachers Association of Iran

Peyman Haj-Mahmoud Attar, the lawyer for the Teachers Association of Iran

The intelligence unit of the Revolutionary Guards considers activists in the teaching profession to be enemies of the state and treats them as such, according to the lawyer of one of the teachers imprisoned for his peaceful activism.

Peyman Haj-Mahmoud Attar, the lawyer for the Teachers Association of Iran, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that five members of the Teachers Association’s Board of Directors are currently in prison.

The most recent arrest was the Association’s Secretary General, Esmail Abdi, who has been held at Evin Prison without clear charges since June 27, 2015. The other imprisoned members of the Board are Rassoul Bodaghi, Ali Akbar Baghani, Alireza Hashemi and Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi.

“Whenever I go to Judge Salavati’s office I am not allowed to see [Teachers Association Secretary General] Esmail Abdi’s file and the Judge refuses to see me. Unfortunately this is not a lawful process. I told Judge Salavati that if he does not think I am suitable for this case I would resign so that Mr. Abdi could get another lawyer and then his case could go forward,” Attar said.

“The constitution and international conventions demand that every prisoner must quickly be investigated and charged. But Abdi’s case has been up in the air for months. I don’t know what my client has been charged with.”

The Teachers Association lawyer also told the Campaign that Bodaghi’s condition in prison had worsened, especially since he had been given an additional prison sentence just as he was near the end of serving a six-year prison term this past summer.

The additional sentence apparently stemmed from the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Unit’s “strange and astonishing accusations” that Bodaghi was giving orders from inside prison to teachers who wanted to organize street protests. “They even said that the money collected by teachers to help Bodaghi’s wife was a hostile act against the state.”

Attar continued that he had tried to get Bodaghi out of prison on one-billion-rials (approximately $33,400) bail while he waited for the final decision on the latest sentence against him but was refused by Judge Moghisseh. “I have gone to the Appeals Court several times to see if a date has been set for the trial but nothing has been done and my client is still in solitary confinement.”

Rassoul Bodaghi was arrested on September 2, 2009, for advocating for teachers’ rights. A year later he was sentenced to six years in prison and barred from civil activities for five years for “gathering with intent to disrupt national security” and “propaganda against the state” by Judge Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court.

Bodaghi, who spent all six years in Evin and Rajaee Shahr prisons without any furlough, now faces three more years of prison for “insulting Imam Khomeini and the Supreme Leader” (two years in prison) and “propaganda against the state” (one year) according to a decision by Judge Moghisseh of Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court.

Attar noted that the Teachers Association is a legal entity with an official operating license from the Ministry of Interior and its imprisoned members were only carrying out their responsibilities according to the group’s articles of association. “But the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence unit has branded all these completely legal activities as threats to national security.”

Labor activism in Iran is seen as a national security offense independent labor unions are not allowed to effectively operate, strikers are often fired and risk arrest, and labor leaders are prosecuted and sentenced to long prison terms.

Labor protests in the teaching profession have been particularly frequent in Iran over the past year, as teachers have protested wages that are below the official poverty level in Iran and the fact that their labor leaders are behind bars for their peaceful activism.