Photo credit: Loizeau, Grand Bazaar, Shiraz, Iran. (Flickr)
Iranian teacher unions – good & bad news
Despite returning to the international community and the victory for moderates in the Parliamentary elections a month ago, life gets no better for trade unionists in Iran. As UK teacher unions hold their annual conferences this Easter weekend, spare a thought for their opposite numbers in the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association. No chance to boo the Iranian Education Minister for them. This month, two teacher union leaders were released (one into internal exile) and three more were sentenced to long terms.
First the better news. Once sentenced to death, Abdolreza Ghanbari was released from prison on 17 March. Originally arrested by Intelligence Ministry agents in December 2009 at Modaress High School, where he was a teacher at the time, he was tortured into a forced confession in the infamous ward 209 of Evin Prison in Tehran. Sentenced to death by the notorious Judge Salavati of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, on charges of “connections with opposition groups and media outlets abroad, and participating in the Ashura demonstration of 27 December.” After an international outcry led by Education International, Ghanbari received a 15 years jail sentence, reduced to 10 years on appeal. He was eventually released due to the elimination of Article 186 of the Islamic Penal Code which allows for very limited evidence to be used to convict people for association with organisations committed to overthrow the Islamic Republic.
Ali Akbar Baghani, a member of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association, was originally jailed in May 2015, and was released on bail on 16 March. He had been charged with membership of the teacher trade union, propaganda against the state and participating in meetings, which resulted in one year imprisonment and ten years exile to Zabol, a small town on the Afghanistan border. He had previously been arrested in 2010 following a meeting of the Central Council of Teachers’ Trade Associations, spending two months in solitary confinement before being released on heavy bail conditions.
However, the bad news this month has been the sentencing on 17 March to five years in prison for Mahmoud Beheshti Langroodi, Mohammad Reza Niknejad and Mehdi Bohlooli. Langroodi is a spokesman for the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association, while the other two are former board members of the ITTA in Tehran. Langroodi is already serving a nine year prison sentence, after a trial that reportedly lasted only a few minutes. Niknejad and Bohlooli were originally released on a three hundred million toman bail last September after being arrested on 31 August. As previously reported, Esmail Abdi, the imprisoned General Secretary of the ITTA was recently sentenced to six years in prison after being arrested with Baghani and Langroodi. Other imprisoned teachers include Rasoul Bodaghi and Alireza Hashemi.