Iran: urgent action needed to help free education unionist

03 حوزەیران 2017

 

Education International reiterates its call for global solidarity and urges Iranian public authorities to immediately release imprisoned education union leader Esmail Abdi, whose hunger strike is taking a toll on his health.

Education International (EI) has expressed its concern about the health of jailed Iranian union leader Esmail Abdi. A leader of the Tehran Teacher Trade Association, Abdi has been on hunger strike for 16 days now and has lost 16 kilograms, putting his life is in serious danger. Abdi is incarcerated in the Evin Prison, in north western Tehran, having been sentenced to six years in jail on 7 October by Branch 36 of the Appeal Court of Tehran.

The “Campaign for Human Rights in Iran” has stressed that Abdi is starting to experience the side effects from his hunger strike, such as weight loss, hypertension, and dizziness. He is determined to continue his hunger strike, but prison authorities have not reacted to any of his demands.

Protest

Abdi initiated his hunger strike on 30 April, protesting against unfair, illegal treatment of civil activists in Iran, and the “judiciary's lack of independence and sentencing of teachers’ union and labour activists, because of their civic activities”. In an open statement issued on 22 April, he denounces a continued repression of teachers by the 'reformist' Rohany’s administration: “Currently, in this post-nuclear deal era, where everyone is calling for the rule of law, democracy, human rights, civil liberties, etc., we are still subject to unlawful repression of our rights, arrest and incarceration of teacher and labour activists, through mock court hearings, which last only a few minutes with predetermined sentences against us. All our civic activities are turned into unfounded 'security' issues and used as an excuse to send us to prison.”

Solidarity

However, through call-outs by teachers’ trade associations and collective determination, Abdi emphasises, teachers resorted to carrying out 'silent' protests and participating in general assemblies of teachers’ associations and various campaigns, such as “the Campaign for a Fair Budget” which collected 110,000 signatures, to bring attention to their issues.

“Through all these efforts, teachers have demonstrated that, although we are very diverse in our politics, in pursuing our rights and liberties we are united, totally independent from all political factions,” Abdi says.

Detention

The International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran reported that in prison, Abdi is kept in harsh detention conditions, denied communication with the external world, and his wife and three children are not given permission to visit him.

His wife reported that she has not been given any information about her husband’s circumstances and health since 1 March. She raised serious concerns about the safety and wellbeing of her husband.

Abdi’s attorney, Amir Salari, has told the “Campaign for Human Rights in Iran” that, “We hold all government officials – from the head of Judiciary, the Supreme Court, Attorney General, Prosecutor of Tehran district, President, Minister of Intelligence and other security officials – responsible and accountable for any harm to Mr. Abdi”.

EI: Condemnation

Education International strongly condemns the fact that Abdi has been targeted by government authorities for his union activities and demands for free and accessible public education for all. Instead of considering teachers’ demands for independent trade unions, above the poverty line wages, decent national health, decent pension schemes, free education, safe classroom for students, and a halt to the privatisation of education, EI believes that the Iranian regime has intensified pressures on teacher activists.

Support needed

Abdi, like other Iranian colleagues, needs your support. Take action and voice your protest to the Iranian public authorities about the six-year jail sentence imposed on Abdi, and demand his immediate release!

The EI Urgent Action Appeal is available here.