Michael Page, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Iranian authorities are punishing teachers and labour activists for exercising their collective bargaining rights and conducting peaceful protests that are essential freedoms for all workers. Authorities’ recent talk of ‘national unity and resistance against foreign pressure’ are empty words when they throw educators and labour activists in jail for demanding a fair wage.”
The authorities have arrested at least 12 teachers since November 11 and have summoned and interrogated 30 more, according to a statement by the Council for Coordination among Teachers Unions on Telegram.
Hashem Khastar, a prominent Teachers Union member in Mashhad, was arrested on November 1, after the first walkout, and held in a psychiatric hospital despite suffering no mental health problems until November 19, when he was finally released. Three other prominent members of the teacher’s union are still locked up.
Rasoul Bodaghi, a Teachers Union member who was imprisoned from 2009 to 2016 for peaceful activism, said that Khastar was detained in the hospital without being charged with a crime, while Sadighe Maleki, Khastar’s wife, said that the hospital requested permission from the Mashhad’s prosecutor’s office before allowing her to visit.
Meanwhile, the Iranian Regime is cracking down on labour activists across the country, with the Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane Workers’ Syndicate reporting on Telegram on November 18 that all of the members of the association of labour representatives for the Haft Tappeh Sugar Cane company, including two of the group’s prominent leaders, Esmael Bakhshi and Mohsen Armand, had been arrested. As of November 20, 15 were reportedly released.
The workers were demanding their unpaid wages and protesting the privatisation of the country.
Iran does not recognize the right to create independent labour unions and has repeatedly harassed, summoned, arrested, convicted, and sentenced workers affiliated with them.
Page said: “The escalating crackdown against teachers and labour activists follows the same old recipe that authorities have pursued for decades. Rather than empowering unions to act as a bridge between authorities and its members, Iranian authorities suppress any effort at peaceful mobilization.”