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Teachers Hold Rallies Across Iran for Labor and Education Rights

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Teachers Hold Rallies Across Iran for Labor and Education RightsIranhumanrights.org - Teachers held rallies in several Iranian cities on March 9, 2017 demanding livable wages and improved educational resources for students.

"The rallies were held in front of the Ministry of Education offices in provincial capitals in collaboration with several teachers' organizations, and they included employed and retired teachers," a member of the Iranian Teacher's Trade Association told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).

Demonstrations were held in the capital of Tehran and other cities including Shiraz, Tabriz, Isfahan, Mashhad, Kermanshah, Sanandaj, Ahvaz, Rasht, Bandar Abbas, Ardebil, Khorramabad, Ahvazi, Sari, Shahroud and Kish Island in the Persian Gulf.

In some cities, police and security forces tried to prevent the protesters from taking pictures or carrying banners, but there were no reports of arrests, said the source, who asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.

The source said the rallies were held to protest low wages and lacking benefits for teachers, the decreasing quality of education, increasing school fees that make "free education" no longer free for Iranian children, and the ongoing harassment, arrests and imprisonment of teachers active in the labor movement.

At many of the rallies, teachers displayed placards of prominent labor activist Esmail Abdi, the former secretary general of the Iranian Teacher's Trade Association who is currently serving a six-year prison sentence for "propaganda against the state" and "collusion against national security."

Formed in the late 1990s under the reformist administration of President Mohammad Khatami, the Iranian Teacher's Trade Association is the largest teachers' in the country. Many of its members have served or are currently serving time in prison for their peaceful labor activities.

In addition to Abdi, who is being held in Evin Prison in Tehran, Akbar Baghani, another senior member of the association, has been exiled to Zabol, in East Azerbaijan Province.

Several teachers are also currently on parole after having provided large security deposits.

CHRI's investigations reveal that since the spring of 2009, dozens of teachers and members of the Iranian Teacher's Trade Association were arrested for their non-violent civil or political activities and sentenced to prison terms ranging from four to 15 years in prison.

Teachers released from prison are meanwhile prevented from returning to work. In some cases, schools are told by security agencies not to re-hire them. Judges are pressured not to listen to complaints from former teachers who want to work again, and administrators are scared to hire back formerly imprisoned teachers for fear of official retaliation.

Information about the Islamic Republic's repression of teacher's rights is mainly limited to what relatives or friends—who are willing to face harassment by security agencies for speaking out—share with the public and the media. The actual number of arrests and incidents of intimidation and harassment is likely higher.

The ongoing arrests and imprisonment of teachers reflects 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.