Iran: An Overview of Human Rights Abuses September – October 2018

Posted on: October 29th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – The following is an overview of human rights violations in Iran between September 23rd and October 22, 2018, per information compiled and verified by the Statistics, Publications, and Achievements Division of Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI).

Domestic restrictions in Iran on independent human rights reporting make it difficult to capture the full extent of these issues on the ground. The following overview draws on the work of HRANA reporters, as well as a network of independent and verifiable sources, including other human rights associations operating outside Iran’s borders.

Summary

Human rights violations continued all across the country over the past month, and included, but were not limited to: executions, child abuse, mass arrests, violation of prisoners’ rights, violation of freedom of expression, labor abuses, and unchecked environmental pollution.

Death Penalty

Capital punishment remains the most egregious violation of human rights in Iran. On October 10th — the World Day against the Death Penalty — the Center of Statistics at HRAI published its annual report to sensitize the public about the situation of the death penalty in Iran. The report provides statistics about executions carried out in this country between October 10, 2017, and October 9, 2018.

More than 25 citizens, including a juvenile offender, were executed in the last month (between September 23rd and October 22, 2018). More than 20 individuals, including a juvenile offender, were sentenced to death. Four people were executed in public.

HRANA was able to identify or gather details about death row prisoners, including a former member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Arsalan Khodkam, the ex-spouse of Leila Tajik, Hedayat Abdollahpour and three individuals convicted of financial crimes. New details on the executions of Zanyar Moradi, Loghman Moradi, and Ramin Hossein Panahi were also reported during this period.

Freedom of Thought and Expression

Freedoms of thought and expression were also widely restricted over the past 30 days.

Arrests: Arrestees in this category included a Shiraz city council member, Ahmad Alinejad and his wife, at least 20 residents of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province, writer and Mashad resident Abbas Vahedian, Zahra Majd in Isfahan, and six individuals involved in the Freedom Movement of Iran, arrested in Nain (near Isfahan).

Convictions: Leila Mir-Ghaffari was sentenced to 2 years in prison, Ejlal Ghavami to 8 months, Hassan Abbasi to 35 months (five 7-months prison terms), an Arak resident to 1 year and 30 lashings, Hamidreza Amini to 11 years. Women who protested this past August were sentenced from 6 months to 1 year in prison, Mohammad Mahdavifar was sentenced to 4 years and 6 months, a dual-nationality defendant faces 8 years and 6 months in prison, Soheil Arabi faces 3 years in prison, 3 years in exile, and a fine; the prison sentence of Abdolreza Ghanbari was increased to 15 years, Alireza Moeinian was sentenced to 8 months in prison; a new 6-month sentence extended the prison term of Saeed Shirzad through 2020; six Arak residents arrested amid the January protests were collectively sentenced to a total of 6 years in prison and 444 lashings, and a group of political activists in Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province were sentenced to exile and prison terms ranging from 8 to 18 years.

Eleven civil activists, including Mohammad Najafi, Ali Bagheri, and Abbas Safari were sentenced to 3 years in prison and 74 lashings. Behzad Ali Bakhshi, Mohammad Yaghoubi, Yousef Shirilard, Neda Yousefi, Davoud Rahimi, Massoud Ajlou and Mohammad Torabi were sentenced to 1 year in prison and 74 lashings, suspended over five years. Kian Sadeghi faces 3 years in prison and 74 lashings, suspended over five years. Morteza Nazari was sentenced to a total of 13 years in prison, 2 years of exile, and a fine; Zahra Zare Seraji, on the same convictions, to 8 years in prison and a fine. Their co-defendants Ali Kabirmehr and Ali Bazazadeh were both sentenced to 13 years in prison and exile.

Summons: Hamid Farrokhnezhad, Parastoo Salehi, a number of reformist political activists, Tehran city council member Kazem Imanzadeh, Hossein Ahmadi Niaz, and Mohammad Najafi were all summoned by courts and the Ministry of Intelligence.

Censorship: The weekly magazines “Nabze Bazaar” and “Paytakht Kohan,” as well as the website “EntekhabKhabar,” were convicted in press court. Courts also issued indictments for the Chief Executive Officers of “Shargh” and “Shahrvand” newspapers for their reporting on sexual tourism. The National Front of Iran was prevented from holding its Central Council meeting in Tehran, a journalist was beaten by Qazvin municipal agents, and a Kurdish student was barred from education, presumably for his political affiliations.

Prisoners’ Rights
Prisoners are rarely protected from cruel and unusual punishments, and their rights to proper nutrition, hygiene, and medical treatment are systematically violated. A few of these victims are detailed below by category of violation.

Raids and beatings: Prison agents punched Arash Sadeghi on his cancer surgery site; Urmia prison authorities attacked political prisoners and injured them severely, inciting them to hunger strike by the dozens; another Urmia prisoner was assaulted; a prisoner was beaten and injured by Rajai Shahr Prison personnel; Bandar Abbas Prison authorities broke an inmate’s fingers; an Urmia prisoner suffered a TBI after a beating by authorities; and prisoners were forcefully undressed and beaten in Zahedan Prison.

Withholding of medical treatment: A prisoner died after being denied medical care in Zahedan Prison. Farhad Meysami, Arash Sadeghi, and a prisoner in Sanandaj were also denied medical treatment.

Going without: Dozens of Gachsaran prisoners launched protests and hunger strikes in opposition to prison conditions. Six Gonabadi Dervish prisoners continued in an ongoing hunger strike. Reza Sigarchi, also in an act of protest, refused food and medicine in Great Tehran Penitentiary, while 8 Gonabadi Dervishes at the same penitentiary and 8 Baha’i prisoners of Karaj disappeared off of the administrative radar for 30 days. Houshmand Alipour was denied access to an attorney. Three prisoners in the Women’s Ward of Evin Prison were blocked from receiving visits, and the fate of sequestered labor activist and Sanandaj resident Zanyar Dabbaghian was still unknown.

Three prisoners attempted suicide in Zahedan, Urmia, and Saravan prisons. Local sources consistently impute prisoner suicides and suicide attempts to the violence and oppression of prison life.

Religious and Ethnic Minorities

Religious and ethnic minorities remained under threat and consistent judicial pressures this past month.

Baha’is: Eight Baha’i citizens were arrested in Baharestan (near Isfahan), four were arrested in Karaj, one of whom had his business forcibly shut down, and three were arrested in Shiraz.
[Some of these arrests reflect coordinated or group arrests, and linked articles will reflect that information overlap].
A Baha’i resident of Yazd who had been blocked from pursuing education was fired from work for their faith, and the parents of a Baha’i prisoner were temporarily detained following a search of the prisoner’s home.

Sunnis: Five Sunni scholars were sequestered for hours in the Zahedan-Khash road patrol office. Three Baluchi citizens, who are scholars of the Ghalamouei seminary, were arrested in Sirik County (southern Iran). Sunni scholars expressed outcry over the public statements of a soccer player they alleged to be disparaging of Sunni sanctities.

Six members of the Yamani Religious Group in Izeh County were also arrested, presumably for their beliefs.

Ethnic minorities: Arab citizens were arrested, and are still being arrested en masse in wake of the Ahvaz Parade Attack. HRANA is still in the process of confirming the identifies of the arrestees, which according to local reports number into the hundreds. Other arrests suspected to be ethnically discriminatory include Nasim Sadeghi, Mohammad Abdolmohammad-Zadeh, Mojtaba Parvin, Ebrahim Divazi, as well as residents of Ilam, Ahvaz, Marivan, Urmia, Sanandaj, Kermanshah, Saqqez, Pevah, Oshnavieh, and Sardasht.

News emerged on the convictions of Abbas Lasani, Kiumars Eslami, Eghbal Ahmadpour, Keyvan Olyali, Hossein Ali Mohammadi Alvar, as well as defendants in Sanandaj, Urmia, Kamyaran, and two detainees of the Afrin battles in Syria. Turkic activist Javad Ahmadi Yekanli was summoned by county security police in the city of Khoy.

Children’s Rights

Children are among the most vulnerable to human rights abuses in Iran. Over the past month, four wrongful child deaths were reported in the cities of Tehran, Falavarjan (Isfahan Province), Qaem Shahr (Mazandaran province) and (Isfahan Province).

The national director of Iran’s social emergency hotline said that 30% of reports called into the center are flagging some form of “domestic violence,” 30% of which turn out to be child abuse cases. Of this 30%, 50% were related to educational negligence, 30% to physical abuse, 15% to psychological abuse, and 4% to sexual abuse of children.

Maryam Sedighi, deputy director of the social welfare department of Alborz Province, said that 12% of “123” social emergency calls made in Alborz — i.e. an average of 40 calls per month — are child abuse reports.

Reports indicate the rape of a young girl by her father in Tehran; a boxing coach accused of raping his teenage student; a father pouring boiling water over his 7-year-old daughter in Genaveh, Bushehr Province; and a teacher using corporal punishment on a pupil in Kazeroon, Fars Province.

Three juvenile suicides were also reported: one student in Rigan County, Kerman Province, and two teenage girls, aged 14 and 16, in the cities of Abadan and Sanandaj.

The Iranian education system allocates fewer and fewer resources to its pupils, and educational facilities across the country — particularly in rural or underprivileged areas — can be found in varying states of wear and disrepair. One pupil in Razan, Hamadan province was injured in the chest, neck, and shoulders when he was caught in falling debris of a school wall that suddenly collapsed. The Razan director of education said that he is currently stable, but will require surgery.

Elementary-school student Donya Veisi of Garmash village, Kurdistan Province, fell victim to her own school’s disrepair when one of the walls surrounding her school yard collapsed, killing her. Later — amid allegations that Donya had in fact been raped and killed — the Kurdistan Prosecutor verbally engaged to investigate the matter.

Women

The question of women’s rights at sporting events gained heightened public attention this past month when, under pressure from FIFA to permit their entry into stadiums, a select number of Iranian women (most of them family members of players and federation employees) were finally allowed to witness a kickoff in person (Iran vs. Bolivia). Authorities’ exclusive selection criteria were highly criticized.

Meanwhile, Shiraz-based activist Maryam Azad was arrested by security forces at a Tehran Airport as she was leaving the country for Turkey.

The managing director of the office of forensic medicine in Kohkiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad province indicated that, of the 429 domestic violence crimes recorded in his office over the past 6 months, 404 were incidents of violence by husbands against their wives.

Additional cases of violence against women included a man’s murder of his ex-wife when he failed to meet “mehrieh” obligations [a type of alimony settlement], and the circumstances surrounding one woman’s decision to set herself on fire in Mashad.

Two women, long hounded by the judiciary for participating in a rally on International Women’s Day, were recently acquitted of their charges.

Laborers and Guilds

This past month was rythmed by strikes, sit-ins, and rallies organized by guilds and employees across sectors who demanded more secure working conditions.

Commercial Transport: This past month, truck drivers in Iran went on a nationwide strike for the third time [in 12 months]. Over the course of their 20-day strike, at least 261 striking drivers in 19 different provinces were arrested and threatened with heavy sentences, including the death penalty. Strikers’ demands did make significant headway: after years of guild activism, the High Council of Transportation Coordination approved a new freight transport measurement rate known as the tonne-kilometre (tkm) method, which was among the most pressing demands of truck drivers. Despite this partial victory, the fates of the 261 detained protesters are still unknown.

Education: Six Educator-Activists who participated in demonstrations May 10th were sentenced to 9 months in prison and 74 lashings. Also reported was the conviction of schoolteacher and University of Tehran student Ruhollah Mardani, who was arrested earlier this year in connection to nationwide protests. Five teachers were summoned by the Bureau of Public Places in Saqqez.

Following a call to strike by the Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates in Iran (CCTSI), Iranian teachers staged sit-ins [on October 14th and 15th] to demand more liveable salaries and justice for their persecuted colleagues. Strike activity was recorded across the provinces of Kerman, Lorestan, Khuzestan, Kermanshah, Isfahan, Kurdistan, Alborz, Hamadan, Fars, Zanjan, Qom, Mazandaran, Tehran, North Khorasan, Ilam, East and West Azerbaijan, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, Bushehr, Gilan and Hormozgan.

Merchants: Merchants went on strike against the many interconnected symptoms of Iran’s current recession, including unstable exchange rates, inflation, rising prices, and unemployment. Merchant strikes went on for two consecutive days in the cities of Karaj, Shahreza, Shahriar, Shiraz, Kermanshah, Tabriz and Sarab.

Two street vendors were reportedly beaten by municipal agents in Qazvin and Gorgan.

Health and Environment:

Five environmental activists arrested 8 months ago have been indicted with charges of “corruption on earth,” which can carry the death penalty.

Intelligence agents halted a group of environmental journalists, including Javad Heydarian, before they could board a flight to Germany for work. Their passports were confiscated.

Public concern over pollution and waste issues is ballooning, and [many citizens are critical of the government’s inaction in face of myriad threats to the public health].

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Iranian Ministry of the Interior, Iranians surpass the worldwide average of daily waste production (300 grams) by a whopping 400 grams every day.

The head of the Environmental Protection Agency of Miandoab (West Azerbaijan Province) announced that contamination of the Zarrinehroud River from the city’s sugar factory, coupled with poor ecological management of the river and its dam system, has caused thousands of fish to die in the river.

High levels of air pollution were reported this month in the cities of Kerman, Mahshahr, Ramshir, Rigan, and the provinces of Sistan and Baluchestan and Kerman.

Cultural Rights and Censorship

A number of photographers from Shiraz faced persecution for their instagram activity this month [which was cited as “improper”].

Two cultural directors from Sistan and Baluchestan province were summoned to the Intelligence office for attempting to host a peaceful community celebration.

Pending content modifications and the resolution of charges against the Home Video Entertainment Network, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance banned distribution of the network’s TV series “13 Shomali” (Northern 13), which previously aired on Saturdays.

Military and Law-Enforcement Power Abuses

Several citizens were killed as a result of power abuses and negligence by security forces this past month.

Police car chases, inappropriate shootings by border authorities, and authorities’ failure to warn civilians of road barriers led to 2 civilian injuries and 5 civilian deaths in Iranshahr (Sistan and Baluchestan Province), Jask (Hormozgan Province) and Azadshahr (Golestan Province) and Razavi Khorasan.

Security forces reportedly assaulted fuel vendors in Saravan (Sistan and Baluchestan Province).

More than a dozen “Kulbars” [laborers who make their living carrying goods across border areas] were wounded and killed across the country, namely in Sardasht (West Azerbaijan Province), Piranshahr (West Azarbaijan Province), Urmia (West Azerbaijan Province) Nowsud (Kermanshah Province), Marivan and Baneh (Kurdistan Province) and Ilam (Ilam province).

A prisoner in Urmia was sentenced to hand amputation, and a robbery convict was dealt 74 lashes in public in the Zeberkhan Rural District (Nishapur County, Razavi Khorasan Province).

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The above-cited reports are only a few examples of dismally more widespread trends. Their mention in this overview by no means implies their significance over those incidents which went unreported, due to tight restrictions on investigative journalists on the ground.

Among available reports of human rights abuses, however, some are more oft-cited due to their sensitive nature or predominating presence in public opinion. It bears mention that all human rights abuses are worthy of the news coverage and social media activism that has come to the aid of so relatively few. Bearing in mind their roles as public opinion influencers, social media activists and human rights reporters must be wary not to underlie existing human rights abuses with unintentional discrimination in their reporting.

Teacher Activist of Sound Mind Sequestered in Psych Ward

Posted on: October 26th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Retired teacher and current teacher’s union member Hashem Khastar, who has no history of mental illness, was arrested in front of his garden on the evening of Tuesday, October 23rd and dispatched by ambulance to Mashhad’s Ibn Sina Hospital Psychiatric Ward.

Khastar’s family were suspicious and worried, a close source said, when they came home Tuesday to find his car unlocked in front of the house. On a Wednesday phone call — his first contact with his family since the arrest — Khastar said that the Intelligence Unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) had arrested and admitted him to the hospital for reasons they wouldn’t disclose.

According to the source, Khastar’s family were initially forbidden by security agents from visiting him in the ward but were more recently able to obtain that permission through coordination with authorities. Khastar — who declared hunger strike earlier today, October 25th, demanding to see his wife — explained during her visit the details of his arrest: “They brought some articles of my clothing into the ambulance, took me straight to the hospital, and put shackles on my feet.”

It is rumored that this puzzling detainment was ordered by the prosecutor’s office. As of the date of this report, no further information is available on the reasons behind Khastar’s arrest.

A recent arrest during silent teacher protests on June 21, 2018, landed Khastar, 65, in a Security Police detention center on Abbas Abad (formerly Vozara) street. In 2009, he was arrested in connection to widespread protests following that year’s Iranian presidential elections and was fined by Iranian courts for two letters he wrote from Vakilabad Prison. He was released, then arrested again later for refusing to pay the fine.

Mashhad is the capital of Razavi Khorasan province, located in Iran’s northeast.

Fed-up Teachers Confront Rouhani by Post

Posted on: October 24th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- The Iranian Teachers’ Organization has written a letter to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to underline a number of the contentions that pushed teachers to strike in recent weeks.

The full text of their letter is below, translated into English by HRANA:

Dear Mr. Rouhani, President of Iran,

Teachers and school staff have been among the most vocal advocates of your administration, which has adopted a rhetoric of moderation and prudence. In your promise they have invested their hopes and labor, entrusting the helm of this country to you. Yet the educational system and its institutions have tumbled low on your list of priorities. Should this trend carry on, hope alone will not be viable.

How long?
How long will we be able to argue with peaceful, dignified means — through democratic and civic activism — that education is critical to the balanced and comprehensive advancement of our country?

How long must we emphasize that education is not second to a safe and healthy Iran, but rather its prerequisite?

How long must we belabor the fact written into the Educational Outlook, that the replacement of low-quality products with top-of-the-line imports is impossible in the realm of our country’s human resources?

How long are we doomed to argue patiently, host conferences, and author articles about teachers who, feeling that their very livelihoods are at stake, will no longer be able to educate our country’s children with ingenuity and sound minds?

How long must we remind you of the impact that the honorable work of teachers has on our workforce and families? How long will we have to shout about the systems in advanced countries, that have wisely grounded their progress and development in education, and ensured that their teachers are held in the same esteem as government ministers, security, and diplomats?

Don’t you know?
Don’t you know that many of our colleagues live under the poverty line?
Don’t you know that uncurbed inflation and price hikes have afflicted teachers’ lives and significantly diminished their purchasing power?
Have you any idea of the insurmountable challenge facing principals directing schools with this dwindling per capita funding?

What we know
We know that the government’s revenue has increased from the rise in oil sales and currency exchange rates.

We know that the government’s income has grown from taxes like the Value-added tax (VAT) that have been tacked onto the high cost of living.

We know that the law allows for salary and other benefit increases under extenuating circumstances.

If you are unaware of the problems and the solutions, woe are we; if you are aware but cannot, or will not do anything about them, woe to you.

It appears you believe everything is as it should be: teachers articulating their predicament with patience and humility, the exemplars of civic demonstration.

Yet we are certain that recent events, widespread protests, and teachers’ lowered thresholds of tolerance could spell ongoing protests and turmoil for our education system.

We pray that you take this warning seriously, and in coordination with parliament and the Ministry of Education will pass the necessary orders to find radical structural solutions to the host of issues flooding our education system, in order to prevent further damage to our beloved country.

Iranian Teachers’ Organization
October 19, 2018

*

The general teachers’ strikes that took place on October 14th and 15th across many provinces in Iran were the follow-up to a call to action from teachers’ associations protesting low wages, and for the release of imprisoned teachers like Mohammad Habibi, Esmaeil Abdi, and Mahmoud Beheshti Langeroudi.

Two Days of Teacher Strikes Knock at Reform’s Door

Posted on: October 16th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Last week’s plea from the Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates in Iran (CCTSI) brought together the voices of learners, educators, and ideologues in a second day of strikes against privatization, minority-language discrimination, judicial persecution of teacher-activists, and educator salaries grazing the poverty line.

In a statement last week, the CCTSI censured the Ministry of Education for its compensation system, decrying the status quo as detrimental to both educational quality and the livelihood of teachers. In the same statement, educational staff across the country were summoned to fill the administrative offices of their local schools with sit-in protests on October 14th and October 15th [the first two days of the Iranian work week]. CCTSI also urged prospective strikers to sensitize students to civic action by explaining the motives for the sit-in ahead of time.

“On behalf of workers in the education system both active and retired, CCTSI has exhausted available paths for bettering our current conditions,” the statement read, concluding their defiant call to strike with an entreaty not to penalize its participants.

Iranian teachers staged sit-ins both yesterday and today, October 15th across the provinces of Fars, Razavi Khorasan, North Khorasan, Kermanshah, Kurdistan, Ilam, East and West Azerbaijan, Mazandaran, Tehran, Isfahan, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province, Hamedan, Qazvin, Bushehr, Alborz, Lorestan, and Khuzestan.

Strikers held placards emblazoned with their hopes for reform: “Free Imprisoned Teachers,” “No to Discrimination”, “Keep Education Public,” “The Right to Mother-Tongue Instruction,” “Implement Teacher Ranking.”

Teachers and pedagogical staff were reportedly joined in solidarity today and yesterday by students in the social science departments of Tehran and Allameh Tabataba’i University, as well as school-age students of Karaj, Ahvaz, and Qom.

Narges Mohammadi, deputy head of the Defenders of Human Rights Center, issued a message in support of the strikers: “No one should be persecuted for organizing legal and non-violent strikes. As a civil activist and advocate, I back the national teachers’ strike and demand the release of the striking teachers.”

Tehran MP Mahmoud Sadeghi published a note on Monday supporting the teachers’ right to strike, and Member of Parliamentary Education Committee Member Davood Mohammadi publicly acknowledged that teachers in recent years have been challenged with increasing economic hardship, saying “they can not meet demands of their families.”

Meanwhile, further from the action, a number of imprisoned teachers could only attend strikes in spirit, and authorities are drawing up charges against detained CCTSI Chairman Mohammadreza Ramezanzadeh. To be sure, the CCTSI call — heartening though it was — has yet to be answered at the policy level.

Labor Activist Zanyar Dabbaghian Still in Custody One Week Later

Posted on: October 15th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – It has been one week since six security agents stormed the home of labor activist and Sanandaj resident Zanyar Dabbaghian, arresting him and transferring him to an undisclosed location.

Without providing a reason for his arrest, security agents reportedly searched Dabbaghian’s home on October 8th and confiscated some of his family’s belongings, including their mobile phones. Despite persistent inquiries, Dabbaghian’s family remains in the dark about his fate.

Dabbaghian was previously arrested and interrogated by intelligence forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). He is employed at a plastic factory in Sanandaj-e Do Industrial Estate.

Sanandaj is the capital of Kurdistan Province.

Trucker Strikes: Threat of Death Penalty Casts Shadow on 261 Detainees

Posted on: October 15th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Since Iranian truck drivers announced a new wave of strikes on September 22nd, 261 striking drivers in 19 different provinces have been arrested. As authorities threaten detainees with the worst, their tenacious movement continues to push forward, obtaining small victories along the way.

Iranian General Prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri recommended harsh punishment for the detained drivers, previously assessing the strikes as a form of banditry, which he iterated “can be punishable by death.” Ghazvin Prosecutor Mohsen Karami announced that 17 of the detained drivers were being charged with “creating insecurity” and “disturbing public order,” and has called for the death penalty.

In a press release, the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) expressed concern over these threats. “ITF affiliates globally are urging the Iranian government to listen to their truckers’ demands. It is economic solutions that are needed. Not threats of executions.” Transportation unions in the US and Canada, along with multiple news agencies and international federations, have gone public with similar concerns and statements of solidarity with the truckers.

Strikers’ demands have, in some respects, made significant headway. The High Council of Transportation Coordination recently approved a measurement tool for freight transport rates known as the tonne-kilometre (tkm) method, which would ensure more regulated compensation. “Adopting the tonne-kilometer system[…] put an end to 40 years of dispute between truck drivers and companies,” Malek Nakhyi, one of the drivers who will put the new system to use, told Tasnim news agency. “This measure will be a blessing to the Iranian transport industry.”

In talks with news agencies, state authorities claim to already have resolved the tire shortage, i.e. one of the truckers’ most pressing demands. However, Head of the Truckers’ Guild Association Ahmad Karimi told Iran Labour News Agency (ILNA) that only 50 thousand tires have thus far been distributed into a market that is in urgent need of 300 thousand more. “One of the truck drivers’ issues [with the system] is that the tires have no fixed price on the market, and representatives [of tire producers] set the price arbitrarily,” he added.

One truck driver told HRANA that a channel in Bandar Abbas ran a “false” broadcast of customs officials inspecting tires purchased in Iraq and Azerbaijan, with the claim that it was footage of tires being distributed to drivers.

The Truckers’ Guild Association listed 15 demands in its call to strike on September 22nd, among them an increase in pensions, the lowering of tire and auto-part prices, a 70% increase in the freight rate, cheaper insurance premiums, the elimination of go-betweens at terminals, and punishment of officers who arbitrarily demand bribes from drivers.

Merchant Arrested Amid Rumors of Impending Market Strike

Posted on: October 13th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Security forces in Tabriz arrested Azerbaijani activist Mohammad Abdolmohammad-Zadeh Namrour on Wednesday, October 10, 2018, and transferred him to an undisclosed location.

An informed source speculated to HRANA that Namrour, a manufacturer in the Tabriz shoe market, was arrested in anticipation of the shoe market’s upcoming strike. This connection has yet to be confirmed.

Urban bazaars across Iran are the site of increasingly frequent strikes among merchants fed up with the symptoms of the current recession, including an unstable currency exchange, rising prices, and inflation.

Tabriz is located in northwestern Iran.

Prisoner of Conscience Voices Support for Striking Truckers

Posted on: October 12th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Rajai Shahr prisoner of conscience Ebrahim Firoozi has written an open letter in support of Iranian truck drivers, who authorities have arrested in droves since they began striking September 22nd.

As the trucker strikes approach their 21st consecutive day, 261 arrestees face “corruption on earth,” “disrupting public order”, and “robbery” charges. As the country’s top prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri has emphasized to strikers, some of these charges carry the death penalty.

In his letter, Firoozi tells authorities that continued arrests “won’t stop truck drivers from pursuing their rights,” and criticizes them for “arresting the drivers rather than solving problems rooted in [authorities’] incompetence and lack of foresight.” The truckers are demanding more affordable truck parts, better compensation, and a crackdown on bribery in the industry.

Firoozi, a Christian convert, has a long history of imprisonment due to his religious activities, including a September 16, 2013 arrest. He was convicted in Spring 2016 of “forming a group with intent to disrupt national security” by Judge Moghiseh in Tehran Revolutionary Court Branch 28. Tehran Appeals court later upheld his five-year prison sentence.

Teachers’ Association Sounds Call to General Strike on October 14th & 15th

Posted on: October 12th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- The Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates in Iran (CCTSI) has issued a statement critical of the Ministry of Education, drawing public attention to a trend of paltry compensation for teachers.

The statement calls for teachers and other pedagogical staff to stage sit-ins in the administrative offices of schools this coming October 14th and October 15th [the work week in Iran runs from Saturday to Thursday]. It also asks teachers to sensitize students by explaining to them in advance the civic impetus behind the sit-ins to come.

The full text of their letter, translated into English by HRANA, is below:

Dear Iranian teachers,
Cherished students,
Esteemed parents,

Teachers both active and retired have been scraping by on painfully low wages for years. They protest cuts to school budget allocations and the unconstitutional shift of educational duties from the shoulders of schools to the shoulders of the people. Teachers have stood their ground in civic and community actions [on behalf of concerns] that officials never deign to acknowledge. No, it seems they are preoccupied with staying in power, defensively clutching their spoils. They think only of their own interests, those of their small inner circle, and those of some citizens in other countries.

Out-of-control inflation and climbing prices have gripped the country, and the purchasing power of teachers, like that of many other hard-working classes, has fallen significantly. What’s more, the cost of education is on the rise, and the Iranian government and parliament have failed to answer to teachers’ faltering quality of life and the ailing education system. The time has come for us to protest this systemic disorder.

All have come to feel that the Ministry of Education, as the face and custodian of this system encompassing millions of people, is without a practical program or vision for improving our educational infrastructure. Instead of attending to the quality of formation and to teachers’ livelihoods, the ministry opts increasingly for monetizing education and impoverishing teachers.

The Public Service Law, which was passed in 2007, has yet to be implemented 10 years later.

The bill on teacher ranking is postponed month after month.
The Teachers’ Savings Fund has been looted, and according to the Fund’s inquiry committee, 18 million tomans [approximately $1,200 USD] is missing from each teacher’s share.

Teacher’s salaries have not kept up with the rate of inflation, and in practice, a majority of teachers live below the poverty line. At the same time, there are fewer and fewer public schools, and those still in operation [depend on separate funding] to run.

The security apparatus and judiciary, rather than pursuing those responsible for corruption and the robbery of our society, prefer to threaten, exile, fire, and imprison teachers who express their needs and pursue justice.

On behalf of workers in the education system both active and retired, CCTSI has exhausted available paths for bettering our current conditions. Teachers have voiced their demands in meetings and letters to officials, published them in statements, launched them as campaigns, and hosted syndical rallies for them. But the regime and the government refuse to take even a single step towards addressing those issues.

Honorable People of Iran,
Imprudent Iranian officials,

We are going to stage sit-ins because teachers can’t go to class in these conditions. In any case, classes held in makeshift camps, overcrowded to the extreme, can hardly be put to any use.

For the reasons discussed above and the many others we have voiced before, CCTSI calls on educational staff of all levels across the country to stage sit-ins in the offices of their schools on Sunday, October 14 and Monday, October 15. We ask that they refuse to go to classes and that they raise students awareness on the factors compelling this initiative.

We ask the school principals to join in and to refrain from harsh treatment of our colleagues. We warn security offices and institutions not to retaliate against the teachers taking part in demonstrations. We have tasted detention and incarcerations, and some of our brave colleagues are still in chains today. We ask that you lay down your weapons of repression.

This October sit-ins are only the beginning: if we don’t see swift, constructive, and concrete changes to the pay slips of active and retired educational employees, and to per-capita funding of students, we will escalate our general strikes come November.

We ask our retired comrades to come visit their local colleagues carrying a flower. Employed colleagues who are off on [the strike days] must also join in, at a school close to their home or in the school where they work.
Teachers believe in the common right to a dignified life, and in access to free, fair, and quality education for all children.

The Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates in Iran
October 10th, 2018

Economic Frustrations Compel Merchants to Strike Nationwide

Posted on: October 9th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Over the course of the past few months, a 60-plus percentage drop in the value of the Iranian rial (toman) has plunged the residents of several cities into financial crisis. Across the country on Monday, October 8th, merchants fed up with recession, inflation, and steadily climbing prices shuttered up their shops and went on strike.

So far, strikes have been reported in the cities of Sanandaj, Tehran, Kermanshah, Andisheh, Iranshahr, Mashhad, Isfahan, Tabriz, Borazjan, Gorgan, Zanjan, Baneh, Marivan, Saghez, Arak, Chabahar, Hirmand, Konarak, Gorgab, Urmia, Zahedan, Kazerun, Genaveh, Parsabad Moghan, Sardasht, Piranshahr, Rafsanjan, Miandoab, Rasht, Paveh and Abhar.

The presence of security forces has palpably strained the atmosphere in many of the above cities, including Sanandaj, western Kurdistan province, which recently doubled down on its controls. The Kurdistan Chamber of Guilds has reportedly sent threatening text messages to local merchants in attempts to coerce them to end their strikes.

Head of the National Chamber of Guilds Ali Fazel confirmed to the Iran Student News Agency (ISNA) that shop-owners have suspended their operations in response to the recession and poor market conditions.

Iranian authorities have proven intolerant of prolonged strikes in the recent past. When merchants of several metropolitan bazaars shut down shop for the same reasons last July, the Tehran General and Revolutionary Prosecutor announced that many of the protesters had been imprisoned. More than 200 of the Iranian truckers who have been striking for the past 17 days have also been taken into custody.