Arrests, judicial harassment and arbitrary detention of human rights defenders and members of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association
According to the Telegram channel of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Associations (ITTA), at least fifteen teachers’ rights defenders and members of the ITTA, including human rights defenders Mohmmad Habibi, Jafar Ebrahimi, and Rasoul Bodaghi have remained arbitrarily detained since 30 April 2022. In the early hours of the morning of 30 April 2022, the human rights defenders were arrested, subjected to physical violence, house raids and had their electronic devices confiscated. Arrests, house raids and confiscations of electronic devices continued to be reported during and after the teachers’ gatherings organised on 1 May 2022 in Tehran and other cities in Iran. Several members of the ITTA have reported receiving phone calls or summons to intelligence services offices, summons to revolutionary courts on dormant cases with security charges and being threatened if they decided to participate in the teachers’ gatherings on 1 May 2022. On 30 March 2022, human rights defender, Shaban Mohammadi was arrested twice, physically assaulted by security officers and threatened should he participate in the teachers’ gatherings.
The arrests of the human rights defenders occurred in the context of nationwide calls for peaceful protests by the Coordinating Council of the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Associations (CCITTA) on the occasion of the Iranian Teacher’s day on 1 May 2022. The main demands of this peaceful protest were for proper classification of teachers, the harmonization of retirees’ pensions, the release of the detained teachers’ rights defenders, the recognition of students’ rights to free education under Article 30, and teachers’ rights to peaceful assembly under Article 27 and their rights to association under Article 26 of the Iranian Constitution. Since the beginning of the new school year in September 2021, teachers have organised several peaceful protests, rallies and sit-in across Iran.
An affiliate of Education International, the Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association (ITTA) is a trade union of educators which concentrates on the union rights of teachers and students since 1998. The board of directors and the members of ITTA have been prosecuted for their defence of the teachers’ rights to peaceful assembly and association.
Mohammad Habibi is a human rights defender and a Spokesperson of the ITTA. The house of the the human rights defender was raided in the early hours of 30th March, and electronic devices of the defender and his wife were confiscated while he was violently arrested. Previously, he had been terminated twice from his teaching position under the pretext of the “unjustified leave of absence” while he was under detention. In August 2018, he was sentenced by Branch 26 of Tehran Revolutionary Court to an executable seven and a half years imprisonment on charges of “collusion against national security”, “propaganda against the regime” and “disrupting public order” for his peaceful involvement in trade union activities. In November 2020, the human rights defender was released from the Greater Tehran Central Penitentiary after serving 30 months of his sentence after his sentence was reduced based on a new directive issued by the head of the Iranian judiciary.
Rasoul Bodaghi is a member of the board of directors of the ITTA’s Islamshahr branch, and the inspector at the CCITTA. The house of the the human rights defender was raided in the early hours of 30 March 2022, a window was broken and the human rights defender was violently arrested. On 16 April 2022, the lawyer of Rasoul Bodaghi announced that the human rights defender was sentenced by Branch 26 of Tehran Revolutionary Court to four years in prison on the charge of “gathering and collusion with the intention of disturbing the national security” and one year in prison on the charge of “propaganda activities against the state” for his peaceful engagement with CCITTA. He had previously spent seven years in prison for his activities in organizing teachers’ protests and defending their rights.
Jafar Ebrahimi is a teacher, human rights defender and the inspector at the ITTA. In the early hours of 30 March 2022, the house of the human rights defender was raided and he was arrested without an arrest warrant. On 31 January 2022, Branch II of Karaj Revolutionary Court sentenced him to four years and six months in prison on the charges of “propaganda activities against state” for publishing official statements for the CCITTA, and “gathering and collusion with the intention of acting against the national security” for attending the 40th-day memorial services for those killed in the November 2019 protests at the Sakineh Behesht Cemetery in Karaj on 26 December 2019.
Shaban Mohammadi is a human rights defender and a member of ITTA, Marivan-Kurdistan Branch, who has advocated for the rights of children to free education, a proper classification of teachers and harmonization of retirees’ pensions. On the evening of 30 March 2022, he was arrested together with two other members of ITTA, Marivan-Kurdistan Branch and detained until 10am the following day. The human rights defender was threatened not to take part in the teachers’ gathering of 1 May 2022. During the teachers’ gathering, he was forcefully taken into a shop, physically assaulted by security forces and detained again from noon to 7pm. Previously in February 2022, Shaban Mohammadi was released on a bail after being arbitrarily detained on 30 January 2022, after taking part in a teachers’ sit-in peaceful protest in Marivan. The human rights defender is currently expecting a court summons for the first hearing.
Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned about the detention of human rights defenders Mohmmad Habibi, Jafar Ebrahimi, and Rasoul Bodaghi and the physical assaults of human rights defender Shaban Mohammadi, as it believes that these acts are directly linked to their peaceful and legitimate human rights work. Front Line Defenders reminds the Iranian authorities of Articles 26 of the Iranian Constitution which provides for freedom of association in terms of “the formation of parties, societies, political or professional associations, as well as religious societies” and that “no one may be prevented from participating in the aforementioned group”; and Article 27which provides for freedom of assembly, "provided arms are not carried" and provided that the assemblies "are not detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam". It urges the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release all teachers’ rights defenders, including human rights defender Mohmmad Habibi, Jafar Ebrahimi, and Rasoul Bodaghi. Furthermore, Front Line Defenders urges them to carry out an immediate, thorough and impartial investigation into the temporary detention, threats and physical assault against Shaban Mohammadi and other human rights defenders before and during the 1 May 2022 gathering, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with national and international standards.