Pressured by Revolutionary Guards, Court Orders Iranian Teachers’ Rights Leader Back to Prison
Prominent labor union activist Esmail Abdi has been forced to continue serving the remainder of the six-year prison sentence handed down to him in 2015 for peacefully campaigning for teachers’ rights. He was briefly freed on bail in October after going on a long hunger strike.
“On Wednesday morning, November 9, (2016), six agents entered the home of Esmail Abdi, the former secretary general of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association, in Karaj and detained him,” a member of the Association told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. “He was transferred to Evin Prison to endure the rest of the six-year prison sentence issued by Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court.”
Abdi told the Campaign in October that the Revolutionary Guards had petitioned the Appeals Court alleging he had broken the terms of his conditional release at the time by visiting fellow imprisoned labor activist Jafar Azimzadeh in the hospital.
“The Sarallah Headquarters added a statement to my case that after my release on bail I did not stop my trade union activities,” said Abdi. “As examples, they mentioned my visits with Mr. Azimzadeh and my interviews with domestic and foreign media.”
Abdi, a former mathematics teacher, had been summoned back to prison over the phone on October 9, two days after his sentence was upheld by Branch 36 of the Tehran Appeals Court following pressure from the Revolutionary Guards, but he refused to comply and demanded a written summons.
Abdi was arrested on June 27, 2015 by the Revolutionary Guards’ Intelligence Organization, a week after being barred from leaving Iran to attend an international teachers’ conference in Canada.
Earlier that year as the secretary general of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association, he had organized a number of “quiet protests” in several provinces to demand better work conditions for teachers and freedom for imprisoned colleagues.
In one such nation-wide event on April 16, 2015 “thousands of teachers from across Iran… held a quiet protest” in front of governmental offices in cities across Iran including Tehran, Karaj, Arak, Saveh, Khomein, Dehdasht, Shahr-e-Kord, Sanandaj, Gharaveh, Marivan, Khorramabad, Boroujerd, Aligoudarz, Nourabad, Delfan, Kermanshah, Yazd, Bojnourd, Sabzevar, Jajram, Zanjan, Abhar, Qazvin, Mashhad, Bandar Abbas, Bandar Imam, Boushehr, Hamadan, Shahroud, Ilam, Rasht, Shahreza, Zahedan, Zarrindasht, Drab and Ivan, according to the semi-official Iranian Labor News Agency (ILNA).
In his preliminary trial in February 2016, Abdi was sentenced to six years in prison by Judge Abolqasem Salavati of Branch 15 of the Revolutionary Court for “propaganda against the state” and “collusion against national security.”
“On one hand, by accusing activist teachers of national security crimes and jailing them, the Islamic Republic wants to warn the new leadership of the Teachers’ Trade Association that they would have the same fate if they start defending teachers’ demands,” a member of the Association, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Campaign in November 2016. “On the other hand, it will discourage teachers from seeking their rightful demands during the presidential election (in May 2017).”
Between 2006 and 2009, Abdi was detained four times by security forces for his peaceful activism. He was issued a 10-year suspended prison sentence in 2011 by the Tehran Revolutionary Court for “propaganda against the state” and “revealing information about security matters.”