Urgent call for the release of teachers and union leaders held imprisoned in Iran

Jafar Azimzadeh 1 Mahmoud-Beheshti 1 Rasool Badaghi 1 Esmail Abdi 1

Press release- Friends of a Free Iran-European Parliament / Strasbourg- 10 May 2016 / Urgent call for the release of teachers and union leaders held imprisoned in Iran

We are extremely concerned regarding the disturbing reports of arrests and imprisonment of several teachers and union leaders in Iran.

Mr Esmail Abdi, General Secretary of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association (ITTA) was arrested on 27 June 2015 following his attempt to obtain a visa to attend the 7th Educational International World Congress in Ottawa in July 2015. Mr Abdi, a maths teacher, is married with three children. He has been sentenced to six years in prison.  He was prevented to choose his own lawyer.

Mr Jafar Azimzadeh, the President of the Free Union of Workers of Iran, and one of the coordinators of the 40,000-signature minim-pay rise campaign, has been sentenced to six years in prison. His union was demanding a minimum wage for the workers to be at least 750 euros instead of the current 250 euros.

Mr Mahmoud Beheshti Langaroudi, 55, former secretary general and current speaker of Iran’s Teachers’ Union is married with one son. Mr. Langaroudi was detained on 6 September 2015 following a raid on his home. His trial lasted a few minutes and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. He had been arrested and tortured, physically and psychologically, on several occasions over the past few years.

The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) issued a statement on 8 September 2015, saying: “On 6 September 2015, the Iranian regime’s intelligence elements arrested teacher activist Mr. Mahmoud Beheshti Langaroudi and confiscated some of his personal belongings at his home. A day prior to his arrest (on September 5), he had raised teachers’ issues and demands with Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, spokesman of Hassan Rouhani’s government. »

We are very worried about their health and well-being as they did not find any other option but to go on hunger strike: Jafar Azimzadeh and Ismail Abdi began an indefinite hunger strike on 29th April. They said that they are protesting against the “crackdown on civil activities and gatherings and strikes by workers and teachers, wages below the poverty line, a ban on independent and free gatherings to mark International Workers’ Day and Teachers Day in Iran and violations of basic rights of Iran’s workers and teachers”.

Mahmoud Beheshti Langaroudi is presently imprisoned in Evin Prison. He started a hunger strike on the 20th April in protest to the 14-year sentence he had been handed. Since the 2nd May he has been on a “dry” hunger strike.

Mr Rasool Badaghi, a teacher and union activist who was recently released after 7 years in prison, tried to visit Mr Langaroudi in hospital on Sunday 8 May but was severely beaten by seven intelligence officers and arrested again. He was sent to Evin prison.

Iran’s Teachers’ Union has issued statements condemning the arrests of its members and called the government of Rouhani as “same as its predecessors”.

Iranian teachers held a protest on Friday in Hamedan, western Iran, demanding their basic rights and the release of imprisoned teachers, according to reports from Iran. The teachers held up banners which pointed out that their colleagues were being arrested in Iran simply for demanding their basic rights, such as fair wages. Numerous teachers from banned teaching unions have been arrested for their peaceful activities in Iran.

Friends of a Free Iran which enjoys the support of over 200 member of the European Parliament from different political groups, expresses solidarity with the imprisoned teachers and union leaders and  calls for their immediate release. We urge the EU High Representative and President of the European Parliament to directly intervene to prevent further repression of teachers and workers in Iran.

Gérard Deprez MEP
Chair, Friends of a Free Iran
European Parliament

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