Teacher Activist of Sound Mind Sequestered in Psych Ward

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.

Open Letter: the Lesson of Imprisoned Teachers

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – The September 23rd kickoff to this new Iranian school year underlines the absence of a number of Iranian teachers from the classroom, who instead of welcoming a new cohort of students are waiting for their judicial reckoning in prison.

Teachers across the country are serving long sentences or getting lashings for their political and union activism, case developments of which were previously reported by HRANA.

In an open letter titled “The Sound of Freedom,” political prisoner Majid Asadi of Ward 10 in Rajai Shahr Prison, located in Karaj, a northwest suburb of Tehran, pays tribute to these educators, taking from their plight a lesson for the country at large.

The full text of Asadi’s letter is below, translated into English by HRANA:

The Sound of Freedom

The bell rings on September 23rd, announcing the first day of classes. It resonates over empty classroom benches. Sara and Fatemeh are selling flowers at the crossroads. A week ago, they saw Ali and Kamran selling fortunes at the park. The class is quiet. No word from the teacher. The teacher is absent.

“Where is Narges?” somebody asks.

“Her father is in prison, so she won’t come to school this year,” a friend responds.

What proper class can go on without its teacher and students?

“Kids belong in the classroom; nothing should stop them from attending school,” the teacher used to say. When those kids couldn’t afford books and supplies: “They didn’t decide to stop coming one day. No, they didn’t choose poverty and misfortune.” That’s what the teachers would say, back then.

The bell rings on September 24th, the second day of classes. The bell summons kids to a class with no teacher. He has not yet returned. He never will. He won’t be teaching a single class period, because this year, the school bell rings in prison. The teacher transforms his cell into a classroom. He did not want the classroom benches to be empty. He will despair when he learns that Narges, Sara, and Fatemeh aren’t coming to school this year. He will be tormented when he understands that Ali and Kamran can no longer attend.

He will be upset to hear that his colleague nods off in his classes each day, because he stays up late working as the night janitor. Talk of his imprisoned fellow teachers upsets him even further.

“With the teacher in prison and the students wandering the streets, what of learning, of lessons, of school?”

The teachers and students ask these questions of each other.

A third bell rings. The sound of freedom: its reverberations bring the classroom to a frenzy.

Why is the teacher in prison? Why aren’t the students at school? Who put the teacher in jail? Could it be that they imprisoned the teacher so that the students wouldn’t come to school?

If that’s the case, maybe they should imprison the students too; or convert the school into a prison so that the students are not left without a teacher, and so they won’t have to fret over the cost of school supplies.

Neither the teacher nor the student chose poverty; neither the teacher nor the student chose prison.

The hand that wants to erect a prison in the place of a school — the one ready to exchange education and happiness for poverty — must be cut. And the teacher who set out to do so never returned. In that moment, he gave us a lesson.

The teacher told the students, “We shouldn’t have to live in fear all the time. Once we set about our mission, our fear will leave us.”

And so the teacher set about his mission — so that his fear would leave him, he left to put an end to poverty and prison, to set the school free. The homework for all classes this year is freedom.

This is the lesson the teacher has taught.

Majid Asadi
Gohardasht [Rajai Shahr] Prison
Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Mohammad Habibi Returns to Prison from Hospital without Adequate Medical Care

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – On Sunday, August 26, 2018, Mohammad Habibi’s medical leave from prison was cut short when he was returned to detention before receiving adequate care.

The union activist and member of the board of directors of the Teachers’ Union Association of the Province of Tehran was being treated at Imam Khomeini Hospital. He was recently sentenced to a ten-year prison term and 74 lashings.

Sedigheh Pakzamir, a close associate of Habibi, stated in an online post that it took 45 days for prison authorities to act on the order for Habibi to be transferred to an outside medical clinic. When they finally carried out the order — which stipulates that Habibi receive medical attention — he was returned to the prison without receiving any.

Pakzamir added that Habibi is symptomatic for lung and urinary tract infections. As such, the doctor recommended he undergo a battery of specialized medical tests, including a sonography, on Monday.

Fatemeh Saeidi, Member of Iran’s Parliament (representing Tehran) and of the Parliament’s Education and Research Commission, previously stated that Habibi was being held in a ward housing violent criminals, and that a letter outlining his predicament containing a request for his sentence to be reduced was signed by a number of Parliament representatives and addressed to the head of the Judiciary.

On August 4, 2018, Habibi’s attorney Amir Raeisiyan reported that his client was sentenced to ten and a half years’ imprisonment. Given that the maximum cumulative prison sentence for all of Habibi’s charges would be seven and a half years, he cannot be required to serve longer. Habibi was subjected to the additional penalties of 74 lashings, a two-year ban on civic activities, and a two-year travel ban.

Prior to this, the International Trade Union Confederation issued a letter to the Islamic Republic in objection to Habibi’s heavy sentence, demanding his immediate and unconditional release. Education International, a teachers’ union federation, has also protested the verdict and demanded Habibi’s release.

In a statement, the Council for Coordination of Teaching Syndicates protested Habibi’s sentence, calling it a litmus test for the justice meted by the Iranian Judiciary. This council demanded the immediate and unconditional release of Habibi, stating, “It is as if the judge intended with his verdict to put society on guard, sending the message that if you pursue justice, you will face prison and lashings.”

On July 16, 2018, over 100 teachers, all alumni of Shahid Rajai University, met with a Mr. Abdi, the Minister of Education’s advisor in Union Affairs, and delivered him a letter in defense of Mohammad Habibi. In the letter, the signatories expressed “great concerns regarding Mr. Habibi’s health”, and requested he be transferred to Evin Prison in accordance with his charges. It also implored the Ministry of Education to pursue the demands of the letter to the furthest degree possible, and to keep the signatories and Habibi’s family abreast of their findings.

A letter signed by 6,500 teachers and civil society activists demanding the release of Mohammad Habibi was delivered to Iranian Parliament on July 25, 2018.

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 Mr. Habibi were released on bail three days later.
Mohammad Habibi was previously arrested at his place of employment on March 3, 2018 and jailed for 44 days. On April 15, 2018, he was released on a bail of approximately $50,000 USD.

Mohammad Habibi is currently imprisoned in Tehran’s Evin Prison, and according to a letter from his HR office, is no longer receiving his salary.