Dozens of Teachers Arrested in Iran During Workers’ Day Protests
Iranian security forces arrested at least 28 teachers in the four days leading up to international workers’ day, between April 28 and May 1, 2022, according to the Iranian Teachers Trade Unions Coordination Council (ITTUCC).
Multiple activists from other labor sectors were also arrested or summoned in Iran ahead of May Day, while labor affairs reporter Asal Mohammadi was informed that an appeals court had upheld her one-year prison sentence.
Teachers have been at the vanguard of Iran’s labor rights movements, waging large and growing peaceful protests throughout the country while demanding better pay and the release of their imprisoned colleagues.
Chants by teachers heard in various Iranian cities during the May Day protests this year included: “[President] Raisi you’re a liar; what happened to your promises?” (Mahshahr); “They say America is our enemy. That’s a lie! Our enemy is right here!” (Shiraz); and “Imprisoned teachers must be freed! (Divandareh).
The protests, which have been sprouting throughout the country for months, are strongly supported by Iranians including civil rights activists.
On April 30, imprisoned teachers’ rights activist Esmail Abdi announced in a public statement that he would be going on hunger strike to “protest the prosecution of trade union activists on security charges and the increasing pressures on the families of imprisoned teachers and workers.”
Other groups in Iran that expressed support include the Iranian Writers Association, which in a statement declared “its support for workers’ demands” and expressed “solidarity in their quest to gain their rightful goals, including the right to organize and exercise free speech without any barriers and exceptions.”
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, 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 their right to strike, and to the International Labor Union’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles, which also guarantees these rights.
Yet independent labor unions are not recognized, strikers are often fired and risk arrest, and labor leaders are prosecuted under catchall national security charges and sentenced to long prison terms.
“The determination of Iranian workers to voice their legitimate demands despite the state’s relentless attempts to crush them demonstrates the urgency of their situation,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran.
CHRI has called on the international community, including the International Labor Organization, the UN Human Rights Council, and the special rapporteur on Iran, as well as other relevant UN special procedures to speak out strongly in support of Iranian workers.