By INU Staff
INU- Iran: Teachers union representative still being held in psychiatric hospital
Hashem Khastar, a teachers union leader in Iran went missing under mysterious circumstances a few weeks ago.
He is a retired teacher who represents teachers in the Razavi Khorasan province in north-eastern Iran. He had participated in the nationwide teachers strike that the Coordinating Council of Teachers’ Syndicates urged people to join.
The teachers have been calling for reforms in the Iranian education system. The Iranian regime is putting the labour unions under increased scrutiny and the teachers unions are heavily monitored.
Several arrests have been made and some representatives remain in jail.
Khastar’s wife - Sediqhe Malekifar - said that her husband went missing from the family’s nearby farm. She grew worried when she could not get hold of him by telephone and called local authorities to see if they were aware of any incidents.
The following day she was called by someone claiming to be affiliated to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
She was told that her husband has been taken to the Eben'e Sina Hospital in Mashhad to be treated for a mental illness. After hearing this news she was very concerned because her husband was in fine health and had shown no signs of any mental problems. On arriving at the hospital to see her husband, she was told that security agents were not letting anyone near Khastar.
Khastar was found more than two weeks ago and has been held in the psychiatric ward against his will.
No-one has claimed responsibility for Khastar’s abduction. The IRGC has said that it is not behind the incident, as has the Intelligence Ministry and the Justice Department. The staff at the hospital have not been able to provide any information either.
Malekifar said that the only possible reason for her husband’s treatment is because of his activist activities. She said that at the beginning of the year her husband called Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei a dictator in an op-ed for a pro-union group that is based abroad called Iran Kargar.
It has been reported that Khastar has had medication enforced upon him. It is required by law in Iran for each individual to consent to treatment for mental health issues. The only exception is if a judicial body or the National Medical Board has had consent taken away from them. Consent can be removed if the relevant authority judges consider that the individual is mentally incapable of making decisions about their health and treatment.
The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) in New York has said: “Iranian law gives security forces and the judiciary the upper hand in all legal cases involving activists and other individuals targeted by Iran’s security establishment. It is also not known whether Khastar has been given access to a lawyer.”
This is just another example of the mistreatment of political and human rights activists in the country. For such an event to be shrouded in mystery is not out of the ordinary. It is also a clear sign that the regime feels threatened by the widespread discontent.