Iranian forces crack down on teachers as wage protests continue

At least four teachers were arrested on Monday as teachers' protests against low wages continued in Iran.

2019 Iranian fuel protests.  (photo credit: MEHR NEWS AGENCY)
2019 Iranian fuel protests.
(photo credit: MEHR NEWS AGENCY)

Iranian security forces arrested at least four teachers on Monday, as teachers around the country continued to demand improvements to their wages and working conditions and the release of detained teachers.

Footage reportedly from Monday showed crowds of teachers in Tehran, Shiraz, Isfahan, Yazd, Tabriz and other cities around Iran protesting. Security forces could be seen at some of the locations.

The Coordinating Council of Iranian Cultural Associations reported that dozens of union activists had been summoned by authorities throughout the country, saying that this showed that "the government's response to the demands is an iron fist."

Mohammad Ali Zahmatkesh, a teacher and activist, was reportedly arrested on Monday as he left his home on his way to a protest rally. In Tehran, Ahmad Heydari, a teacher participating in the protest in the city, was arrested as well in front of the Iranian parliament. Two other teachers were also detained by plainclothes security forces. A protester in Mariwan was also reportedly arrested.

A prison guard stands along a corridor in Tehran's Evin prison June 13, 2006. (credit: REUTERS)A prison guard stands along a corridor in Tehran's Evin prison June 13, 2006. (credit: REUTERS)

According to the coordinating council, teachers protesting in Tehran were dispersed by security forces who pushed and threatened them.

Additionally, on Monday, teacher and activist Jafar Ebrahimi was sentenced by the Karaj Revolutionary Court to four years and six months in prison.

The council stressed that it will not be intimidated by the attempts to suppress the protests and warned that it would continue and widen protests and would close classes in March if their demands are not met.

A number of protesting teachers and activists have been arrested and jailed since the protests began months ago. Some of the protests have been violently suppressed, with security forces firing tear gas at and assaulting protesters.

Earlier this month, Mohammad Taghi Fallahi, the secretary-general of the Iranian Teachers Trade Association in Tehran, was sentenced to six-months in prison and taken to Evin Prison, where many political prisoners are kept in Iran. Fallahi was convicted last year on charges of "conspiracy and collusion through membership in an illegal organization."

Workers of the Iran National Steel Industrial Group expressed support for the teachers' protest on Monday, saying "the demands of teachers in eliminating discrimination, having the opportunity to provide a decent life, free education and the abolition of monetization of education are the demands of all of us workers and all of us people."

Teachers in Iran have been protesting over the past few months demanding that the government implement the "80% ranking plan," which would require teachers' wages to be at least 80% that of faculty members.

In December, the Iranian parliament passed a bill to raise the wages of teachers, but the teachers' unions say that the bill will only increase their wages by a small percentage, still leaving them under the poverty line.

The Coordinating Council of Iranian Cultural Associations which is supporting the teachers' protests has expressed outrage that the budgets of the military and other institutions have multiplied while the budget for teachers and "the livelihoods of the majority of society, including cultural figures, have been neglected."