On May 1, teachers in some 50 cities rallied and protested in defiance of the fascist theocratic rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI)—including the regime’s attempts to prevent the protests from even happening.
Heading into May Day, the leaders of the teachers’ protest declared (April 21 statement):
We are gathered here to say loud and clear that we will continue our protests until all demands of teachers are met. The ongoing repression, imprisonment, and court case-building by the authorities cannot stop the teachers' movement. We will come back to the streets, again and again until all our demands are met… Hundreds of teachers across the country have been summoned for interrogations by security agencies over the past six months.
The Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) reports that Iranian security forces arrested at least 28 teachers in the four days leading up to international workers’ day, between April 28 and May 1, 2022, according to the Iranian Teachers Trade Unions Coordination Council (ITTUCC).1
Yet even after arrests of teacher union leaders aimed at preventing May 1 protests, teachers in many cities in Iran rallied bravely, demanding living wages, labor rights and freedom for their imprisoned colleagues. Dozens were arrested.
Iran’s Teachers: A Key Component of Society, an Important Force in Resistance
Iran’s teachers have been an important component, often in the forefront, of the ongoing protest, struggle and courageous resistance against Iran’s Islamic Republic, a regime of ruthless exploitation and oppression. This resistance erupted in mass nationwide uprisings in 2017 and 2019, and the righteous anger of the Iranian people has continued to boil ever since, and continues to burst forth in righteous, courageous protests among many sections of the population. And it’s led to vicious counter-attack by the regime—including executions, beatings, and imprisonment. And this in turn has sparked a global movement in support of these imprisoned fighters, including the International Emergency Campaign to Free Iran’s Political Prisoners Now.
Iran’s teachers play an outsized role in Iranian society and the mass resistance to the IRI. By some estimates, there are over a million teachers and admin staff in Iran—nearly one percent of the population! In 2021 alone, teachers have held seven coordinated, nationwide, gatherings in more than 180 cities with women playing prominent roles. And this activism has drawn intense scrutiny by the IRI’s repressive apparatus; there are currently some 100 “security” cases pending against teachers.
The role of the teachers and their organizations isn’t limited to protests for better wages and conditions. In the past decade teachers have increasingly raised political demands, “such as defending free education, opposing ideological education, defending native language education, defending students' rights, and defending free and high-quality education for all children in Iran,” the spokesperson of Iran’s Teachers Union recently said.2 All this has an important impact on the fabric of Iranian society and what people are being taught in school and is objectively part, in different ways, of the clash between religion and superstition vs. objective reality/science.
The teachers’ actions have been supported by a wide range of people within Iran, including civil, labor and human rights activists, and the Iranian Writers Association which in a statement declared “its support for workers’ demands” and expressed “solidarity in their quest to gain their rightful goals, including the right to organize and exercise free speech without any barriers and exceptions.”
In a statement read at a May 1st event in San Francisco, the IEC sent
a May Day shout out to all of Iran’s courageous political prisoners. We salute the tens of thousands rising up so heroically for their basic rights and humanity in the face of threats, beatings, arrests, even bullets. This includes those in the streets of Iran today—the teachers, bus drivers, refinery workers and many others. It includes the brave people of the small town of Yaasooj in southern Iran, who together freed a teacher and May Day organizer from the clutches of Islamic security goons who tried to prevent May Day from taking place.
Esmail Abdi—Courageous Imprisoned Teachers’ Rights Activist Announces Hunger Strike
On April 30, Esmail Abdi, an imprisoned teachers’ rights activist, announced he was going on hunger strike to “protest the prosecution of trade union activists on security charges and the increasing pressures on the families of imprisoned teachers and workers.” There are reports that a number of other political prisoners have been joining Esmail Abdi’s hunger strike in solidarity with his demands.
Abdi, who has spent seven years in prison and is serving an additional 10 years, began his hunger strike as of May 1. On day six of his hunger strike, the regime suddenly moved him without warning or public announcement. His family later learned he’d been transferred to Kachoui Prison in Karaj.
Amid Surge of Executions, IRI Threats to Kill Dual-National Political Prisoner
Ahmadreza Djalali is an Iranian-born Swedish physician and researcher specializing in disaster medicine. In 2016 he was arrested in Tehran after traveling there from Stockholm after being invited by the University of Tehran. He was held in isolation, tortured, and later wrote from prison that Iran’s Intelligence Ministry pressured him to engage in espionage, and when he refused, he was forced to make false confessions without access to a lawyer. He was then tried on espionage charges in a sham trial and sentenced to death in 2017.
Now suddenly, on the day the trial taking place in Sweden against former Iranian official Hamid Nouri wrapped up, the Iranian regime announced Djalali would be executed on May 21. Nouri has been charged with war crimes, specifically for being part of the mass execution of 5,000 Iranian political prisoners, including leftists, revolutionaries and communists, in 1988, that Iran’s current president, Ebrahim Raisi, was also complicit in. It’s possible that this threat is an effort to force Sweden to release or repatriate Nouri in exchange for Djalali’s life or perhaps even to impact the verdict in the trial.
“The UN and international rights groups, as well as more than one hundred Nobel laureates, have loudly condemned the Iranian government’s wrongful detainment of Djalali and have called for his release,” the CHRI reports.3
All this is a stark illustration of the arbitrary, illegitimate, and barbaric character of “justice” in Iran and the need to step up the struggle to free all of Iran’s political prisoners.
IEC Announces New Plans to Step Up the Struggle—Free Iran’s Political Prisoners Now!
See “Bold Plans, Next 5 Weeks.”
World-renowned author Ariel Dorfman urged participation in the International Emergency Campaign (IEC) by saying “I am convinced—from personal experience—that the prisoners themselves are given strength to survive and persevere, they are listening. They know others, faraway, care what happens to them, and we should not let them down.” Full statement here.
In continuing this most urgent fight to “not let them down”, there are ambitious plans for the coming weeks that require your active participation to significantly impact the public square.
* First, mark your calendar for an exciting international roundtable on Friday June 10 (2-4 pm EST) in partnership with DePauw University’s “Fight the Power: Global Movement for Social Justice” summer-session course. The theme will be “Solidarity with Iran’s political prisoners, heroism for our time.”
* This amazing panel will be preceded by a day of class discussion with the students on June 8 joined by IEC and Burn the Cage activists. And on June 9, there will be a screening of Nasrin followed by discussion with the filmmakers Jeff Kaufman and Marcia Ross.
* Second, we are launching a fundraising effort, starting now, to raise at least $9K by June 15 to republish the Emergency Appeal as a two-page color spread in Ms. magazine’s summer edition, with digital ads in msmagazine.com.
* Third, on Friday, May 20, 6:30-8:30 pm (PST), Sensible Cinema of the First Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco (UUSF) will host a community screening of the documentary film Nasrin, followed by Q&A with IEC and other activists. This event will be on site at the UUSF (1187 Franklin Street) and also accessible via Zoom.