Peaceful Teachers Protesting Heavy Sentence Against Mohammad Habibi Met With Tear Gas, Arrests
Teachers who were peacefully protesting a fellow colleague’s heavy prison sentence were met with tear gas by anti-riot units who made “several arrests” in the Iranian city of Isfahan on December 27, 2018, a trade unionist told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
On December 24, Iran’s Appeals Court upheld a conviction against Mohammad Habibi, a member of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association (ITTA) who in August 2018 had been sentenced by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran to 10.5 years in prison, of which he would have to serve at least 7.5 years.
He was also sentenced to 74 lashes as well as two years abstinence from political and social activities and prohibited from leaving the country for two years.
Habibi was convicted of “assembly and collusion against national security,” “propaganda against the state” and “disturbing public order.”
“Naturally, we expected the Appeals Court to look into this case more carefully because the sentence had been handed down on the basis of peaceful trade union activities,” Habibi’s lawyer, Hossein Taj, told CHRI on December 27.
“In any case, we don’t believe this verdict is fair and therefore will take our objection to the Supreme Court.”
Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which mandates in Articles 21 and 22 freedom of association and guarantees the right to form trade unions, and to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which guarantees in Article 8 the right of workers to form or join trade unions and protects the right of workers to strike.
According to Article 27 of Iran’s Constitution, “Public gatherings and marches may be freely held, provided arms are not carried and that they are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam.”
But peaceful labor activism in Iran is nevertheless treated as a national security offense; independent labor unions are not allowed to function, strikers are often fired and risk arrest, and labor leaders are consistently prosecuted under catchall national security charges and sentenced to long prison terms.
A formerly imprisoned teachers’ rights activist told CHRI that a group of active and retired teachers had gathered in front of the Education Ministry’s office in Isfahan to protest the persecution of their colleagues and demand higher pay and insurance benefits.
“Minutes after the teachers gathered together on December 27, anti-riot units and policemen on motorcycles attacked and released tear gas, creating a lot of problems for the participants because many of them were elderly retired teachers,” said the source who requested anonymity for security reasons. “In the end, several teachers were also arrested and taken away.”
“What this attack means is that the police are not tolerating any protests,” the source added.
“Many teachers have been summoned to the Intelligence Ministry as well as to the Education Ministry’s security division in person or by phone,” said the source. “They were warned that if they continue their protests, they would be fired from their job and taken into custody.”