Revolutionary Guards Violently Arrest Teachers’ Rights Activist in Front of High School Students
29 Teachers Advocate For Habibi’s Freedom
Teacher and trade union activist Mohammad Habibi was beaten and arrested by agents of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in front of his students at Andisheh Technical High School in the city of Shahriar on March 3, 2018.
“The agents in civilian clothes had no manners,” a source with knowledge about the case told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). “They didn’t show a warrant but they had a piece of paper from the IRGC’s Sarallah Headquarters.”
“When Mr. Habibi resisted arrest and demanded to see a warrant, one of the agents pulled out his pistol and pointed it at Habibi’s head and another agent shot pepper spray at his face and beat him with his fists and kicked him in front of the shocked students and bystanders,” added the source who requested anonymity for security reasons.
After he was arrested, Habibi was driven to his home where he was also beaten in front of his wife as agents searched the property. Since then he has only had one brief conversation with his family on the phone and has been denied access to a lawyer, according to the source.
Habibi, 29, remains in detention in Evin Prison’s Ward 2-A, which is under the control of the IRGC.
According to Article 48 of Iran’s Criminal Procedures Regulations, detainees have the right to ask for and have a meeting with a lawyer as soon as they are detained.
However, a “Note” to this article makes exceptions: “In cases of crimes against internal or external security…during the investigation phase, the parties to the dispute are to select their attorneys from a list approved by the head of the judiciary.”
The source that spoke to CHRI said Habibi’s trade union activities were peaceful and lawful.
“His activities were within the framework of the [Iranian Teachers’ Trade] Association (ITTA) and entirely legal and with permission. But the IRGC and the Intelligence Ministry have a problem with any kind of activity, especially when trade unionists start to organize,” said the source.
Continued the source: “In his activities and writings, Mr. Habibi called for an increase in teachers’ salaries and fought for free education and an end to discrimination, none of which are presumably considered crimes but under the Islamic Republic, maybe they are.”
Twenty-nine teachers and staff at Habibi’s school signed an open letter on March 9 demanding his release.
“We condemn the manner of his arrest in the strongest terms and demand that his legal rights are respected,” they said. “We also declare that at school Mr. Habibi engaged purely in educational activities and we never saw him doing anything illegal.”
Independent labor unions are banned in Iran, strikers are often fired and risk being detained and labor leaders face long prison sentences on trumped-up national security charges.
Teachers’ rights activists who are currently imprisoned in Iran for their peaceful activism include Esmail Abdi, the former chairman of the ITTA, and Mahmoud Beheshti-Langroudi, a former spokesman for the association.