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.

Iranian Trucker Strikes Push into Second Straight Week

Posted on: October 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – As they make it past the two-week mark, Iranian trucker strikes look nowhere near relenting, and authorities are taking notice.

As of the date of this report, 244 individuals have been arrested in connection to trucker strikes across multiple cities, including but not limited to Shahr-e Kord, Bandar-e Imam Khomeini, Ahvaz, Susangerd, Najaf Abad, Isfahan, Shiraz, Bushehr, Aligudarz, Urmia, Yazd, Zarrin Shahr, Bandar Abbas, Tiran, Miyaneh, Behshahr and Ghuchan.

While broadcasts from state-sponsored news agencies declared on October 6th that the protests were losing steam, the truckers have yet to back down. The same day, the General and Revolutionary Prosecutor of Shahr-e Kord announced that six more protestors had been detained.

Prior to October 6th, 238 individuals connected with the strike had already been detained and booked on charges of corruption on earth, disturbing public order, and banditry. Prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri previously threatened the detainees with heavy sentences, reminding them that their charges are punishable by death. Strikers in multiple provinces are taking the risk: Qazvin, Alborz, Ardabil, Isfahan, Fars, Semnan, Kermanshah, Zanjan, Hamadan, Northern Khorasan, and cities of Nahavand, Bujnurd, Kangan, Pakdasht, Nishabur, Shirvan, Azarshahr, Gorgan, Bandar-e Gaz, Izeh, Razan, and Zaran provinces have seen arrests so far.

At a ceremony for the opening of a tunnel connecting Karaj to Chalus, Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi acknowledged truck drivers’ role in the construction of the tunnel, telling a reporter, “the demands of the truck drivers will definitely be addressed.”

The Ministry of Roads and Urban Development showed less compassion toward the strikers in an October 6th response to Tehran-based Friday prayer imam Kaze Sadeghi, who stated that the Ministry should answer to their responsibilities and address the issue rather than “saying irrelevant things.” The Ministry’s retort statement read, “truck drivers are hardly struggling.”

In an interview with Mehr news agency, Deputy Head of the Iran Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization (IRMTO) Dariush Amani spoke of his organization’s initiative to meet drivers’ demands for tires, including cheaper import prices on cotton-based tires. “Tires have been placed on the list of essential items which will henceforth be imported at the government-subsidized price of 4200 Tomans [$1 USD].”

Ali Khaneghai, a general manager of the Sistan and Baluchestan provincial transportation and terminals department, acknowledged that high tire prices were one of the industry’s most dire needs, and claimed that 1200 subsidized tires have been distributed to drivers. “The drivers can purchase tires at fair prices through the Ministry of Industry, Mine and Trade with the presentation of their welcome letter from the Driver’s Union.”

Ahmad Jamshidi, Transportation and Terminals Manager of Chahar Mahal and Bakhtiyari province, also commented on tire influx, stating that 2711 tires had thus far been distributed among regional truckers.

HRANA previously reported on authorities’ reactions to the truckers’ continued strikes, which have been active since September 23rd. On that date, the Iran National Truck Driver’s Trade Union called on truckers to cease their operations until authorities fulfilled a list of 15 conditions, including an increase in pensions, a decrease in part prices, a 70-percent increase in wages, a decrease in insurance premiums, and a crackdown on bribery in the industry.

Stakes and Arrests Climb Higher as Truckers’ Strike Enters 11th Day

Posted on: October 2nd, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – The Iranian truckers’ strike entered its eleventh day on Tuesday, October 2nd, catching fire in additional cities where 15 more were arrested and public prosecutors have begun threatening participants with the death penalty. The total number of arrestees is now at 171.

Cities currently host to strike activity and its corollary transport stoppages include Tehran, Isfahan, Arak, Qom, Bandar Abbas, Sirjan, Mashhad, Yazd, Tabriz, Sari, Kashan, Bukan, Khosroshah, Dezful, Rezvanshahr, Karaj, Dorood, Marvdasht, Garmsar, Khorramabad, Meshkat, Naqadeh, Malayer, Bandar Imam Khomeini, Ardakan, Sirjan, Shahr Babak, Shirvan, Sanandaj, Gorgan, Shahroud, and Zarinshahr.

Police Commander of Kangan county Colonel Rezaei confirmed that two people in his jurisdiction had been arrested and had their vehicles seized. Heydar Asiyayi, Semnan Province’s General and Revolutionary Prosecutor, confirmed 11 arrests in his locality, as did Alireza Mazaheri, police commander of North Khorasan province. According to the Prosecutor of Razan County, Hamedan Province, said seven more drivers have been arrested and charged with “acting against national security.”

Hadi Mostafavi (General and Revolutionary Prosecutor in Nahavand, Hamedan Province) and Ali Pakdel (police chief of Bojnord, Northern Khorasan Province) recently confirmed that four people had been arrested in each of their respective cities. Eighty-one citizens had already been arrested this past week in the provinces of Qazvin, Alborz, Ardebil, Isfahan, and Fars, as well as in Pakdasht Country, Tehran province.

Arrestees in the latter-named regions stand charged with both “disrupting order and security” and a second charge that has been known to carry the death penalty: Qata al-Tariq, i.e. “banditry” or highway robbery.

Iran’s National Prosecutor Mohammad Jafar Montazeri evoked Qata al-Tariq as a charge that could potentially be leveraged against the strikers. He was echoed by Fars Province Judiciary Head Ali Alghasimehr, who added that strikers were exposing themselves to charges of “corruption on earth,” also punishable by death.

Kerman Province’s Revolutionary and General Prosecutor Dadkhoda Salari also reminded truckers of how high the stakes of their strike might go, saying “anything that disrupts public order could be considered enmity against god or corruption on earth, based on the article 286 of the Islamic Penal code.”

Death threats from on high continued into Monday when Judiciary head Sadeq Larijani ominously put truckers on guard that they “disrupt[ing] roadway security.”

Strikes have been active since September 23rd when the Iran National Truck Driver’s Trade Union called on truckers to cease their operations until authorities fulfilled a list of 15 conditions, including an increase in pensions, a decrease in part prices, a 70-percent increase in wages, a decrease in insurance premiums, and a crackdown on bribery in the industry.

HRANA has been able to confirm the strike’s disruption of usual commercial activity, per interviews with industry professionals: Head of Tehran Poultry Farm Union Mohammad Yousefi recently stated that food prices have risen as a result of the strike, due to stalled cross-country transports of chicken meat, while a group of Afghan merchants complained that the strike has stalled the transport of their goods to Afghanistan.

According to Minister of Industry, Mine, and Trade Mohammad Shariatmadari, the truckers’ long-awaited supply of tires is already available thanks to improved distribution via the Iran Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization (IRMTO), a subsidiary of the Roads and Urban Planning Ministry. Soon, he predicted, 80 million dollars will be allocated to the import of tires every month.

According to previous comments from Deputy Head of IRMTO Daryoosh Amani, the Industry Ministry refused to fulfill truckers’ past demands for tires. Yet Seyyed Hassan Hosseini Shahroudi, vice-chair of parliament’s Economic Committee, imputed both the IRMTO and the Ministry of Roads and Urban Development for falling short of truckers’ needs. More than 153 MPs backed the truckers’ demands in a letter addressed to President Hassan Rouhani, which was recently read to parliament by Akbar Ranjzade, a member of the Islamic Consultative Assembly Presidium.

In another recent speech, Ranjzade delivered a double-edged message to a gathering of truck drivers in Asadbad, Hamedan province. In one breath he promised their demands would be addressed; in another, he made it known that they were flirting with capital punishment.

At Least 30 Iranian Truckers Arrested as of Sixth Day of Renewed Strikes

Posted on: September 29th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA)- As the most recent round of truckers’ strikes entered its 6th day on September 27th, dozens of truckers had been arrested by security forces.

Stalling commercial transport across several Iranian cities–including Shahr-e Kord, Ardabil, Nain, Karaj, Isfahan, Arak, Nishapur, Zarrin Shahr, Urmia, Sabzevar, Rafsanjan, Qazvin, Dezful–striking drivers heeded the call of the national truck-driver’s trade union to cease their operations until authorities addressed their demands, including an increase in pensions, subsidized pricing for parts, 70+% hikes in fares, payment of drivers’ insurance premiums, the removal of brokers from terminals, and increased supervision of officers and agents, positions that have proven susceptible to bribes in the past.

In wake of the industry unrest, local prosecutors have confirmed the arrests of multiple truck drivers; as of the date of this report, Qazvin Prosecutor Esmail Sadegh Niaraki, the Karaj Prosecutor, and the Ardebil Public and Revolutionary Prosecutor Naser Atabati announced the arrest of 15, 7, and 8 truckers in their respective jurisdictions, claiming that the detained drivers had disrupted public order by blocking the roads. Reports indicate at least 30 strikers in various cities have been arrested since the strikes first began on Saturday, September 22nd.

On Thursday, truck drivers received text notifications of fuel allotments for drivers who didn’t participate in the strike and who can provide a bill of lading. These messages are reportedly an attempt by authorities to deter the ongoing protests.

Head of Tehran Poultry Farm Union Mohammad Yousef opined that the shortage and rising prices of poultry (currently $1USD (100 thousand IRR) per kilogram) could be resolved if the striking truckers were to resume their usual routes.

Roads and Urban Development Ministry Deputy Abdol-Hashem Hassan Nia claimed that road freight transportation is ongoing, and promised a more consistent supply of domestic tires for truckers. He indicated that leveraging more of the country’s tire supply from a government supply organ known as the Organization for Collection and Sale of State-owned Properties of Iran (OCSSPI) would be the next step in the resolution process.

“Also, on orders from the vice president, the import tariff on tires will be reduced to 5%, which should accelerate the importation,” Nia said, estimating the resultant supply increase could resolve the road fleet’s tire complaints within a month.

HRANA previously reported on the fifth day of the nationwide truck driver strikes and the reactions they drew from authorities.

Six Education Rights Activists Get Suspended Sentences for May 10th Gathering

Posted on: September 26th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) –

Six people arrested in a teachers’ demonstration on May 10th have been issued a suspended sentence of nine months imprisonment and 74 lashings, or the equivalent financial penalty, on charges of “disrupting public order by taking part in illegal gatherings” and “disobeying authorities serving their duty.” Their trial took place in Branch 1060 of the Second Criminal Court of Government Employees on September 5th.

HRANA has identified the arrestees as Ali Eghdamdoost, a member of the retirees’ union; Rasoul Badaghi, a previous officer of Tehran’s Teachers Trade Union; Esmayil Gerami, Javaad Zolnoori, Hossein Gholami, and Mohammad Abedi.

All six took part in a May 10th gathering of teachers and retirees advocating in front of Iran’s Planning and Budgeting Organization against the privatization of the country’s education system, and for wages that would hoist them above the poverty line. Police attacks on the demonstrators led to injuries, hospitalizations, and eight arrests.

Arrestees were held in a security police detention house on Vozara street before being transported to Base Seven of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) a few days later. They were finally taken in shackles and handcuffs to Evin prison, where they eventually accepted to post a bail of 500 million rials (approximately 12,000 USD) to await their trial.

Teachers’ union activist Mohammad Habibi, currently housed in Section 4 of Evin Prison, is a defendant on the same case. He was sentenced July 23rd to 10 years and six months in prison, 74 lashings, and a two-year ban on both civic activities and travel.

At trial, a judge offered freedom to the May 10th activists in exchange for their pledge to cease future involvement with labor activism. In defense of their right to stage and participate in peaceful gatherings, all reportedly refused.

Authorities Flip-Flop as Truck Driver Strike Wages on

Posted on: September 26th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – A strike that started September 21st in the Iranian trucking industry continued for its fourth consecutive day, causing long delays at gas stations and spikes in the price of produce that drivers refuse to mitigate until authorities take action to resolve their complaints.

Stalling commercial transport across several Iranian cities–including Tehran, Arak, Sari, Qazvin, Asadie, Bandar Imam Khomeini, Khomeyn, Isfahan, Varzaneh, Shahr-e Kord, Abhar, Kermanshah, Darab, Ardabil, Shahr-e Babak, Ziabad, Shiraz, Zanjan, and Kazerun–striking drivers are heeding the call of the national truck-driver’s trade union to cease their operations until authorities concede to increase truck driver pensions, reduce the price of truck parts, increase driver wages by 70 percent, lower insurance premiums, and crack down on corruption in the industry.

Fuel stations short on truck-supplied petrol are struggling to serve the long lines of customers forming at the pump as the strike wears on. Meanwhile, potato and tomato prices have reportedly increased in certain localities.

This is reportedly the third coordinated truck drivers’ strike to occur in the span of a few months. The first two each lasted ten days, beginning, ending, and resuming when authorities failed, promised, and failed again to make good on their verbal engagements.

Hassan Nasiri, head of a truck-owners’ co-op in Jooybar, said that the biggest frustration hindering truck drivers was the inadequate provision of truck tires and parts, adding that the quantity of parts supplied by the Industry Ministry to the truck-owners’ union has not been sufficient in meeting the demand.

In an interview with the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), head of the Alborz province truck-owners union Naser Kaviani said he was hopeful that their principle issues, such as the shortage of motor oil and parts, could be resolved with a reduction of market prices.

In a meeting with authorities including the Isfahan provincial governor, head of the national truck-owners union Ahmad Karimi, who is also from Isfahan province, said he was promised the provision of the sorely needed parts. According to Daryoosh Amadi, deputy head of the Iran Road Maintenance and Transportation Organization, or IRMTO, a subsidiary of the Roads and Urban Planning Ministry, the Industry Ministry refuses to fulfill drivers’ demands for tires.

An Academic Year of Teacher Crackdowns

Posted on: September 25th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Iranian authorities have tightened their grip on union activities in recent years, and teacher union activists are far from the exception. Indeed, if representatives of various industries have been met with blowback for organizing in defense of their colleagues’ collective rights, a retrospective of crackdowns in the education field gives reason to believe that authorities reserve particular vitriol for the nation’s educators.

So far this year, Iranian teachers and educator-activists have been arrested by security agents, brought to court under various allegations, issued lengthy prison sentences, flogged, and exiled. On this turning of Iran’s new academic year, HRANA looks back at the cases of several teachers who were persecuted by authorities this year.

Mohammad Habibi: Union Activist, Member of the Teachers’ Union Association Board of Directors in Tehran Province

On May 10, 2018, the Council for Coordination of Teaching Syndicates urged teachers, be they retired or employed, to assemble in protest across the country. In Tehran, several of those who responded to the call were beaten and arrested and five days later Habibi was transferred to Great Tehran Penitentiary; all but Habibi were released on bail.

Now, Habibi’s case—which recently inspired more than 1400 civil and union activists to write to Iran’s Supreme leader demanding that he receive medical treatment—will be reviewed in Branch 36 of the Tehran Appeals Court, presided by Judge Seyed Ahmad Zargar. Habibi’s attorney Hossein Taj told a correspondent from the state-run news agency IRNA on Monday, September 17th that a date for the hearing has yet to be set.

Cumulatively, his charges would carry a sentence of ten years: 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.

Habibi suffers from chest pain and throat and lung infections secondary to assault wounds inflicted by authorities during his arrest, yet continues to be denied medical treatment. On the one occasion his medical leave was granted, according to HRANA reports, the receiving hospital dismissed him without treatment, sending him back to Evin Prison’s Ward 4 on Monday, September 3, 2018, where he has remained since.

Habibi’s case–particularly his compromised medical condition–recently drew the support of teacher organizations 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.

The Teachers’ Union Association of the Province of Tehran has publicly condemned the recent persecution of union advocates, also demanding that the necessary steps be taken for Habibi’s immediate release.

Habibi was arrested at his workplace on March 3, 2018 and jailed for 44 days in Evin Prison. On April 15, 2018, he was released on a bail of approximately $20000 USD (2.5 Billion Rials) pending his trial the following August.

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

Mahmoud Beheshti Langroodi: Former Spokesman of the Teachers’ Union Association

Mahmoud Beheshti Langroodi, former spokesman of the Teachers’ Union Association, has been persistently following up on his requests for conditional release, having already served half of the five-year sentence he began September 6, 2015 in Evin. Authorities have thus far been unresponsive.

According to his wife Adineh Beigi, Langroodi started his teaching career in 1983 and remained an hourly employee for the first seven years, suspended in the recruitment process due to his allegedly oppositional intellectual leanings. In the genesis of the Teachers’ Union Association in the early 2000s, he was one of the first to join its board of directors, and was elected general secretary for two terms. He has also served on the board as an inspector and spokesman.

Langroodi had been sentenced to a total of 14 years in prison for three separate cases tried in revolutionary courts, all presided by judges known as “Salavati and Moghiseh.” In April 8, 2017, with the application of article 134, which limits defendants of multiple charges to the single heaviest among their sentences, his 14-year prison sentence was reduced to five years. Now, having served two third of his prison term, his family awaits his release.

On July 2, 2018, Langroodi went on hunger strike to protest the continued mistreatment of political prisoners, and wrote an open letter imputing the eventual consequences of his hunger strike on those who had put him behind bars, particularly the judges and prosecutor’s office.

On July 16th of this year, the Teachers’ Union Association of Tehran Province issued a statement condemning the judiciary’s disregard of the law, and criticizing the assistant prosecutor in charge of Evin Prison for negligence. The letter validated the demands of Beheshti and his fellow imprisoned teachers, urging them to cease their hunger strike.

Moved by his comrades’ letter and concerned about his declining health, Beheshti ended his hunger strike after 14 days.

Langaroudi has been summoned, interrogated, arrested, and detained several times during the past few years for his peaceful trade union activities.

Esmaeil Abdi: General Secretary of the Teachers’ Union Association

Esmail Abdi, former secretary general of the Teachers’ Union Association, is serving a 6-year sentence in Evin Prison.

A former teacher of mathematics, Abdi was arrested by security forces June 27, 2015 and sentenced February 2016 by Judge Salavati in Branch 15 of Revolutionary Court on charges of “Propaganda against the Regime” and “Assembling and Colluding against National Security.”

On May 14, 2016, after serving 11 months, he was released on bail until his trial the following October, when Branch 36 of the Tehran Appeals Court upheld his six-year prison sentence. He has been in Ward 8 of Evin prison since being arrested in his home by security forces on November 9, 2016.

Under Article 134, Abdi’s sentence should be limited to the heaviest one of his multiple sentences, and thus should not exceed five years. It remains to be seen if the judiciary will uphold Article 134 in his case.

Over the course of Abdi’s imprisonment, several groups have spoken out against his treatment by the judicial system and pleaded for his release, including the Syndicate of United Bus Company Workers of Greater Tehran (known as ‘Sandicaye Sherkat Vahed’), the International Education Organization, the Iran Teachers’ Organization, a number of individual labor and union activists, the Coordinating Council of Iranian Teachers’ Trade Associations, the Kurdish Teachers’ Association, and the Canadian Teachers’ Federation.

In April 24, 2018, Esmail Abdi staged a 23-day hunger strike to protest the “widespread violation of teachers’ and workers’ rights in Iran.” Amnesty International was prompted by the urgency of his hunger strike to issue their own demand for Abdi’s release on April 28, 2018.

Abdi had previously gone on hunger strike one year earlier in protest of his trial proceedings, the judiciary’s lack of autonomy, and the continued unlawful repression of teachers and labors union activists. More than a month into the strike he was transferred to a hospital and began eating again on June 7th at the requests of his family and the Teacher’s Union Association.

Abdi was the 2018 recipient of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) Solidarity Award at its annual conference in Birmingham, England.

Mohammad Sani, a Teacher of Exceptional Schools in Southern Iran

Mohammad Sani, a teacher from Bushehr, southern Iran, was sentenced to two years in prison and 74 lashings for his union activities, which landed him a conviction of “spreading misinformation and disturbing public opinion” this past August. He is currently waiting for the Enforcement Department to deliver his summons and begin his prison time.

An informed source previously told HRANA that Sani’s charge is related to the widespread teacher protests in 2015, which prompted the County Governorate of Dashtestan, Bushehr province to open a case against the protestors. “When Mr. Sani responded to the county governor’s insults to the teachers at the sit in, they opened a case on him,” the source said.

In October 2015, Iranian teachers staged peaceful protests across the country, demanding the release of their imprisoned colleagues, the fulfillment of union requests, and public consideration for the threatened livelihoods of educators.

Ruhollah Mardani: Teacher and Tehran University Student

In Ward 4 of Evin Prison, Ruhollah Mardani is currently serving a sentence of six years, plus a two-year ban on typical citizen rights including travel.

Mardani was arrested and transferred to Evin Prison on February 17, 2018 for his participation in the widespread January protests one month earlier. His initial court hearing, which convened in June of this year, convicted him on charges of “Propaganda against the regime” and “Gathering and collusion aimed at disrupting national security.”

Mardani started a hunger strike April 24th 2017 to protest his detainment and stalled court proceedings while in prison. When authorities promised to accelerate their investigation of his case on May 21st, he began eating again after twenty seven consecutive days of strike.

An informed source previously told HRANA that the Education Security Office cut off his salary in the first month of his arrest, arguing that he could not be paid during his detention. “His job security is under threat right now,” the source said.

Mardani was working as a consultant teacher in region 4 of Karaj while studying at Tehran University.

Bakhtiar Arefi: Teacher in Sardasht, northwestern Iran

Bakhtiar Arefi began serving his 18-month prison sentence on Tuesday July 24, 2018 in Mahabad Prison. He was arrested January 25, 2015 for non-union reasons including “Membership in a Reformist Organization” and released on bail after one month.

Shortly thereafter in Revolutionary Court on February 25, 2017, Arefi was sentenced to three years in prison. His sentence was upheld in Branch 40 of Supreme Court, only to be later reduced to eighteen months in Branch 13 of Urmia Appeals Court on October 30, 2017, via application of Article 18 of Islamic Penal Code. If he serves his sentence as indicated, he will be released December 23, 2019.

Iranian teachers who have faced judicial persecution along with their unionist colleagues include Mokhtar Asadi, Taher Ghaderzadeh, Rasool Bodaghi, Aliakbar Baghani, Nabiollah Bastan Farsani, Abdolreza Ghanbari, Mahmud Bagheri, Mohammad Davari, Alireza Hashemi, Jafar Ebrahimi, Hashem Khastar, Mohsen Omrani.

Mohammad Habibi’s Case Enters Appellate Stage: a Review of the Stakes

Posted on: September 20th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- The case of imprisoned teacher Mohammad Habibi—which recently inspired more than 1400 civil and union activists to write to Iran’s Supreme leader demanding that he receive medical treatment—will be reviewed in Branch 36 of the Tehran Appeals Court, presided by Judge Seyed Ahmad Zargar. Habibi’s attorney Hossein Taj told a correspondent from the state-run news agency IRNA on Monday, September 17th that a date for the hearing has yet to be set.

If all goes according to Taj’s hopes, Branch 36 will at best exonerate him, and at worst put him behind bars for seven and a half years. The precarity lies with Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code, which in theory protects defendants from serving the sum of multiple sentences, but is not applied consistently in practice.

Cumulatively, Habibi’s charges would carry a sentence of ten years: 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, 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. But Taj, his attorney, remains on guard: the Article 134 rights of imprisoned teacher Esmaeil Abdi, who is also on Taj’s client list, have not been honored: “…Abdi was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment, which by Article 134 should have been five,” Taj explained.

Taj elaborated that Abdi has also been denied both medical care and conditional release from prison, a privilege for which he became eligible after serving half of his sentence. “We have re-submitted my client’s conditional release request, and it is under review,” the lawyer said.

A former teacher of mathematics and Teachers’ Union General Secretary, Abdi has been in prison since November 2016 on charges of “Propaganda Against the Regime” and “Collusion Against National Security.” Habibi, a union activist and member of the Teachers’ Union Association Board of Directors in Tehran province, was arrested amid May 2018 rallies that were staged in observance of a national teachers’ holiday.

Habibi’s case–particularly his own compromised medical condition–recently drew the support of teacher organizations 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.

“Prison authorities continue to refuse him the medical treatment he sorely needs. Without proper care, his condition is at risk of rapid decline,” their letter reads. “We mean to impress upon you that as the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, you are responsible for the life and health of Mohammad Habibi.”

On the one occasion Habibi’s medical leave was granted, according to HRANA reports, he was released from Great Tehran Penitentiary to a hospital that dismissed him without treatment. He was then transferred to Evin Prison on Monday, September 3, 2018, and has remained there since.

According to a letter from his HR office, Mohammad Habibi is no longer receiving his salary.

At Home and Abroad, Civil and Union Activists Continue to Rally Behind Detained Teacher Mohammad Habibi

Posted on: September 17th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- In the interest of obtaining Mohammad Habibi’s medical treatment and release from detainment, over 1400 Iranian civil and union activists have signed a letter to the attention Iran’s Supreme Leader, as his case steadily gains exposure with syndicates abroad.

Habibi, himself a union activist, educator, and member of the Teachers’ Union Association Board of Directors in the Province of Tehran, is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence ruled Saturday, August 4th in Branch 26 of Tehran Revolutionary Court. In addition to prison time, Habibi’s sentence included a two-years ban on civic activity, a two-year travel ban, and 74 lashings.

Since his detainment, Habibi’s requests for medical furlough have been repeatedly denied. On the one occasion his leave was granted, he was released from Great Tehran Penitentiary, prematurely dismissed from the hospital without receiving treatment, and then transferred to Evin on Monday, September 3, 2018, where he has remained since.

In one letter addressed to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the French trade unions SFDT, SGT, FSO, Solidaires, and UNSA called Habibi’s imprisonment a violation of both human rights and the fundamental freedoms of syndicates, and held the Supreme Leader accountable for his fate.

“Prison authorities continue to refuse him the medical treatment he sorely needs. Without proper care, his condition is at risk of rapid decline,” their letter reads. “We mean to impress upon you that as the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, you are responsible for the life and health of Mohammad Habibi.”

The signatories of the Iranian letter below are currently at 1400 and steadily increasing. Its full text is below, translated into English by HRANA:

“The Noble People of Iran,
Dear Teachers,
Political, Civil, and Union Activists,
Sensible people of the world,

As you know, Mohammad Habibi — member of the board of directors of the Teachers’ Union Association of the Province of Tehran, and protector of the rights of students, retired educators, and currently working teachers– has been subjected to the hostility of authorities and unlawfully detained in the Great Tehran Penitentiary, weakened in body but vigorous in spirit, and was recently sentenced to ten and a half years in prison, a 2-year travel ban, and a 2-year ban on civic activity.

The verdict against this unionist, coupled with the sentences of fellow unionists and political and civil activists, betrays the will to choke freedom of speech with medieval punishments such as lashings, exile, and internment in prisons reminiscent of POW detainment centers– so many efforts to inject fear and trepidation into the civil activist’s drive for justice.

Habibi’s verdict is reminiscent of the heavy sentences imposed on student activists and of the lashes inflicted on Agh Tappeh mine workers, sentences that are the latent dread of every civic society.

These sentences are issued for teachers, workers, students, etc… meanwhile, the thieves, the embezzlers, and the corrupt, in comfort and security, violate and withhold the rights of ordinary people and laborers, continuously lowering the bar on their livelihood.

It is our human duty in such circumstances to raise our collective voice against these cruel punishments, in order to put an end to the imprisonment, flogging, and persecution of sick prisoners.

To intercept a looming human tragedy, the Defense Committee of Mohammad Habibi calls for his immediate medical admission, and with a greater sense of solidarity than ever before will continue to fight for his release as well as the release of other imprisoned teachers.

We call on all free and righteous people to protest the imprisonment and flogging of Mohammad Habibi, and that of other unionists and civil activists, starting with their signature on the “No to Prison and Flogging” petition. Hopefully, this year, Mohammad Habibi’s students will see him again in the classroom, and not behind the bars of a prison.”

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On May 10, 2018, the Council for Coordination of Teaching Syndicates urged teachers, be they retired or employed, to assemble in protest across the country. In Tehran, several of those who responded to the call were arrested and transferred to Evin Prison; all but Habibi were released on bail three days later.

Mohammad was previously arrested at his workplace on March 3, 2018 and jailed for 44 days in Evin Prison. On April 15, 2018, he was released on a bail of approximately $20000 USD (2.5 Billion Rials) in wait of his trial the following August.