Concessions from Prison Authorities Put an End to Abdolreza Ghanbari’s Hunger Strike

Posted on: November 15th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Prompted by his loved ones and a promise from authorities to transfer him back to Evin Prison, teacher and political prisoner Abdolreza Ghanbari has begun eating again after five days of hunger strike.

Ghanbari had announced he was starving himself in protest of his forced transfer from Evin’s Ward 8 to Rajai Shahr Prison on November 10th. In a previous HRANA report on Ghanbari’s hunger strike, a close source remarked that the transfer seemed arbitrary.

In a note announcing the end of his strike, Ghanbari wrote, “moved by the words of my loved ones to end my hunger strike, I have relieved them of their worries. The persistence of my spouse and my attorney have ended in a promise from officials to return me to Evin, as per my request, as soon as possible.”

What was once a 10-year sentence for Ghanbari was increased to a 15-year term in September of 2017, per reconsideration proceedings led by Judge Moghiseh in Branch 28 of Revolutionary Court. After presenting himself to the Evin Prosecutor’s Office on October 13th of this year, Ghanbari was escorted to Evin Prison’s Ward 8 by security forces.

CCTSI Rallies Teachers into Second Round of Strikes

Posted on: November 15th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- The Coordinating Council of Teacher Syndicates in Iran (CCTSI) rallied educators across the country into a second round of general strikes November 13th, mobilizing in protest of the “Full-Time Teacher” bill, which continues to move forward despite significant pushback.

Strike activity was reported in several provinces, as teacher-activists and their allies staged sit-ins in the principal’s offices of their respective schools. “The goal of the sit-in,” a CCTSI statement read, “is to oblige our rulers to uphold the constitution by providing free, quality, and accessible education to students, and to stop their attack on the livelihood of teachers.”

CCTSI and their sympathizers voiced similar demands during a first round of strikes in October of this year.

Teachers made their demands known on handheld placards protesting low teacher salaries, environmental conditions unsuitable for learning, the Full-Time Teacher Bill, class discrimination in the education system, privatization, language discrimination, and the continued persecution of teacher-activists.

From Evin Prison, Vice President of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders Narges Mohammadi sent a message in support of the strikers:

“The children of this land learn “D E C E N C Y” from their teachers, and a teacher’s [decency] manifests in free expression and conscience.

The children of this land learn “P E A C E” and “F U L F I L L M E N T” from their teachers, and their teachers’ fulfillment lies in a humane, dignified life.

We support the teachers’ general strike of November 13 and 14, to free the fettered “T E A C H E R,” to elevate the teacher’s status, and preserve the right to peaceful protest.

Narges Mohammadi”

Masoud Kazemi and Hashem Khastar Released from Custody

Posted on: November 14th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Journalist Masoud Kazemi was released on bail Sunday, November 11th. He was arrested in his home November 5th, one day after tweeting critical remarks about Iranian authorities. Kazemi is the editor-in-chief of Sedaye Parsi, a monthly political magazine.

Retired teacher and current union activist Hashem Khastar, who was arrested and sequestered in Mashhad’s Ibn Sina hospital psychiatric ward for unknown reasons October 23rd, was released November 10th. He has no history of mental illness.

Hashem Khastar

During his forced hospital admission, Khastar’s family and friends were arrested for gathering outside Ibn Sina to demand his release.

On June 21, 2018, Khastar was placed in a Security Police detention center on Abbas Abad (formerly Vozara) street for participating in silent teacher protests. 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, only to be arrested again later for refusing to pay the fine.

Hashem Khastar’s Supporters Released from Custody

Posted on: November 7th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Twelve individuals demonstrating their support of Hashem Khastar outside Ibn Sina Hospital in Mashhad were reportedly released a few hours after being taken into custody on Monday, November 5th, a close source said.

By arresting the demonstrators, intelligence agents were intercepting their protest of an increasingly curious hostage situation: Iranian authorities have kept Khastar cloistered in the hospital’s psychiatric ward since arresting him for unknown reasons on October 23rd.

Khastar’s detention caused a stir among his family members and fellow activists, eventually inspiring a social-media call for his supporters to gather outside Ibn Sina.

After arresting the 12 would-be protestors, a close source told HRANA, intelligence agents attempted to get their signatures on a set of legal documents, which they refused. “The intelligence officers then negotiated with Mr. Khastar’s wife,” the source continued. “Finally, promising that Mr. Khastar’s situation would be clarified within the next 24 hours, they released all 12 [of them].”

Khastar’s spouse Sadigeh Maleki Fard, his children Jahed and Ahmad Khastar, and his fellow teachers Hadi Lotfinia and Mohammad Yazdi were among those detained.

It has now been 14 days since the IRGC snatched the retired teacher and union activist from his home, sending him by ambulance into psychiatric “care” despite his clean bill of mental health. A source previously pointed HRANA to the circumstances of his arrest: “…His unlocked car and all its contents were abandoned in front of the gate to his orchard.”

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.

Authorities Quash Show of Support for Sequestered Teacher Hashem Khastar

Posted on: November 7th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- The wife, children, and colleagues of teachers’ union activist Hashem Khastar, 65, who was forcibly hospitalized on October 23, 2018, in Mashhad, were detained by agents of the Intelligence Ministry on Monday, November 5th.

More than 10 of Khastar’s supporters were arrested while convening in front of Ebn-Sina hospital, where Khastar remains detained in the psychiatric ward despite having no history of mental illness. They have been transferred to the Intelligence Bureau of Mashhad.

HRANA has thus far been able to confirm the identities of five arrestees: Sadigheh Maleki Fard (Khastar’s wife), Jahed Khastar and Ahmad Khastar (Khastar’s sons), and colleagues “Mr. Lotfinia” and “Mr. Yazdi.”

According to a close source, authorities were quick to head off their show of solidarity. “Security agents were already present at the hospital prior to the protesters’ arrival and had blocked the roads leading up to it. Khastar’s family were arrested as soon as they arrived. Several other individuals — teachers and colleagues of Mr. Khastar — were arrested throughout the day until 5:30 PM.”

Arrestees were reportedly booked at the police station before being handed over to Ministry of Intelligence custody.

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.

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

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.

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.

Detained Teachers Released after some Hours in Police Custody

Posted on: July 28th, 2015

HRANA News Agency – More than a hundred and thirty teachers, who were arrested during a silent rally in front of the parliament, were released from detention.

According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran (HRANA), in the teachers’ silent gathering in an extensive security environment on 22nd July, over a hundred teachers were arrested and after a few hours all of them were released. (more…)