Officials Fear the Spread of Teacher’s Protests in Academic Year

Kaveh Ghoreishi
Kaveh Ghoreishi

» A Teachers Union Member:

As restriction on teacher activists continue, this week another member of the ruling body of the teachers association and an independent teacher activist were arrested in Tehran. Mohammad Habibi, another member of the teachers association of Tehran told Rooz that the arrests were most likely because of the fears that officials had about the possibility that teachers protests would spread in the new academic year.

As reported by Moalem va Kargar website (Teacher and Worker) Mohammad-Reza Niknejad, a member of the governing board of Tehran’s teacher’s union ( Kanoon Senfi Moalemane Tehran ) and Mehdi Bohlooli, an independent activist, were arrested in their house by security agents on August 31, 2015.

The website quoted family members to have said that the agents carried warrants from the prosecutor’s division at Evin Prison and that they searched their house when they arrived.

No information has been made available about the whereabouts of the detainees.

Speaking to Rooz, Habibi said, “Teachers began to be detained in the provinces after July 22 this year. What is common in all of the arrests that have been made is that officials seem to fear that as the new academic year began on September 1, there would widespread protests by teachers. It appears that the latest arrests in Tehran were also in light of the same concerns.”

He categorized Niknejad and Bohlooli who were arrested in Tehran this week to be non-political activists who also worked with domestic newspapers.

Protests Against Consumerization of Education

As teachers protests grew last year around the country, so did summons, arrests and restrictions on teacher activists. For example Ismail Abdi, the secretary general of the teachers association was arrested when he appeared at the prosecutor’s office in Tehran on June 27th. He had been initially kept at ward no 2A of Evin Prison, a section that is run by the Revolutionary Guards. A source told Rooz later that he had been transferred to general ward no 8 since August 25. Abdi himself had told his relatives in a telephone conversation that things were easing up on him and that he could have his normal weekly visitations with his family members.

The main reason for teacher protests last year has been opposition to the new ranking of teachers which the union has characterized as “discriminatory.” According to Mohammad Habibi, “the key demands of teachers and the union related to living costs and the narrow gap between the official minimum wage and teacher’s salaries. There are also objections because of shortage of teaching facilities and official disregard to the continuing drop in the quality of education in schools.” According to him, teachers are also protesting about the “privatization of schools and the commercialization of education.”

Last year, Iranian teachers sent a long signed petition to Majlis speaker Ali Larijani protesting the “political approach to their living standard issues.” The petition that had been signed by 6,000 teachers read, “Most teachers in Iran struggle in meeting their basic livelihood needs, live under the poverty line, have had their profession harmed and have lost their professional incentive.”

New Fabrications Against Rasool Bedaghi

In May, teachers rights activists announced that despite protests by teachers no improvements had been made in their conditions. At the time, Hashem Khastar, an activist told Rooz, “Absolutely no breakthrough has taken place. They (officials) have shut their ears but the situation cannot continue as is,” adding that teachers would continue to fight discrimination and pointed to the six years that Bedaghi had been held in prison as a sign of the determination of teachers. Beghadi remains in prison even though his five-year prison sentence has been completed. According to his wife, new charges of disrupting national security have been filed against him.