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.

Impending Appeals Hearing on Habibi Case

Posted on: October 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – The Appellate Court of Tehran Province Branch 36 will convene October 25, 2018, to review the case of Mohammad Habibi, a teacher and union activist imprisoned since May 2018 for commemorating national teachers’ week.

Habibi’s lawyer Hossein Taj confirmed the news to HRANA. “We’re taking it as a good sign that they’ve assigned a date this soon,” he said. “We hope that the appeals judges consider our client’s upstanding character and the case for his defense, which would relieve, if only a little, the pain that’s plaguing the teaching community.”

On September 20th, HRANA’s English webpage announced that Habibi’s case had entered the appellate stage.

In direct violation of physician orders, Habibi has been denied medical attention since the beginning of his detention period. Taj said that Habibi has suffered from various health problems since being imprisoned, including a 22-pound weight loss, suspect kidney stones, and a severe lung infection causing pain in his rib cage, reportedly due to being beaten while in prison.

According to Taj, the nephrologist at Imam Khomeini hospital issued an order for Habibi’s urgent treatment, as he has kidney and urinary tract conditions that may require surgery. In face of the documented medical urgency, however, authorities have yet to clear him for even preliminary testing.

On the one occasion that Habibi’s request for medical leave was granted, he was released from Great Tehran Penitentiary, prematurely dismissed from the hospital without receiving treatment, and then transferred to Evin Prison on Monday, September 3, 2018, where he has remained since.

Habibi’s case – and particularly his compromised medical condition – recently drew the support of teacher’s organizations at home and abroad. In a letter addressed to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the French trade unions SFDT, SGT, FSO, Solidaires, and UNSA held the Supreme Leader accountable for Habibi’s fate and called his imprisonment a violation of both human rights and the fundamental freedoms of syndicates. In May 2018, General Secretary of Education International (EI) David Edwards vehemently denounced Habibi’s arrest and detention, demanding his immediate release in a letter to Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.

Iranians themselves have also called for Habibi’s release. In a statement signed by over 1,400 civil, political, union and teachers’ activists across Iran, Iranians protested Habibi’s sentence and called for greater solidarity with teachers and other workers in Iranian society.

On July 23rd, 2018, Judge Ahmadzadeh of Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced Habibi to 10 and a half years’ imprisonment, i.e. seven and a half years for “national-security related Crimes,” 18 months for “propaganda against the regime”, and another 18 months for “disrupting public order.” In addition to prison terms, he was dealt a two-year ban from political and civic activities, a two-year travel ban, and 74 lashings.

Under Article 134 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, which holds that prisoners are to serve the lengthiest of their sentences, Habibi’s sentence, if upheld, would put him behind bars for a maximum of seven and a half years, i.e. the heaviest one of his three sentences.

Habibi is a member of the board of directors for the Teachers’ Union Association of Tehran Province.

A letter from his HR office confirmed he is no longer receiving his salary.