Iranian Teacher Arrested for Activism

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Mohammad Taghi Falahi

By Pooya Stone

The Iranian security forces arrested a teachers’ rights activist at his home on Saturday, according to a statement by the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association (ITTA), who protested this method of putting double the pressure on teachers and activists, while calling for the immediate and unconditional release of the activist.

After Mohammad Taqi Fallahian, the General Secretary of the ITTA was arrested, his family was told not to talk to the media.

The ITTA, which is an independent association which campaigns for better work conditions, higher salaries, and improvement of schools in Iran, wrote in their statement: “This is not the first time that members of the Teachers’ Trade Association encounter suppression, but as in the past, they will get through this ordeal proud and triumphant while enjoying the support of other teachers and the honorable people and students of Iran.”

The ITTA also expressed support for other jailed teachers, including Mahmoud Beheshti Langroudi, Mohammad Habibi, and Esmail Abdi, saying that their convictions were unjust and oppressive.

Fallahian was previously arrested on May 2 for taking part in a Teachers’ Day protest outside the Education Ministry building to demand higher salaries. The teachers had been answering a call by the Council of Teachers Unions, who cited that the government had failed to respond to previous demands.

Many other teachers were arrest during the Iranian authorities’ brutal crackdown on protests, including formerly imprisoned teachers’ rights activist Rassoul Bodaghi and another member of the Iranian ITTA Mojtaba Ghoreishian.

Fallahian was released six days later on bail, after receiving a suspended eight-month prison sentence and ten lashes.

Teachers’ salaries are among the lowest in Iran, close to the minimum wage, even as living expenses exceed that. In addition, teachers’ rights activists are systematically targeted by the security forces and sentenced to heavy prison terms.

Hamidreza Rahmati, a member of the Isfahan Teachers’ Association, was sentenced last year to 18 months of prison and 74 public lashes for “disrupting public order by carrying out an abnormal act outside the Education Department building”. He was then sentenced to another 18 months of prison and a 20 million-toman fine (around $600) for “sending messages on social media that encouraged violence”. (He actually just called or peaceful protest.)

While in 2018, at least 30 activists were summoned and 12 teachers were detained following a teachers’ strike in over 80 cities in November, which was called by the Teachers’ Coordination Council.