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Iran: Global education union community rallies around arrested trade unionists and demand their release

published 6 December 2021 updated 9 December 2021

As an organisation committed to trade union and human rights, Education International is demanding the release of Esmail Abdi and other arrested trade union leaders in Iran. There is a particular and urgent concern for Abdi’s health, severely affected after long imprisonment in dire conditions.

During a meeting of Education International’s Executive Board on December 2nd, the international body adopted a resolution demanding respect for the "rights of teachers and education workers to organise and to freedom of association and freedom of speech including the right to peaceful assembly, without fear of intervention by the authorities."

The Executive Board also called goes on member organisations to join Education International’s call for an immediate release of Esmail Abdi and other imprisoned leaders and join Education International’s efforts to ensure safety and wellbeing for their family members.

For several years now, Education International has been following the difficult situation of trade unionists and educators in Iran and leading campaigns for the release of teachers and others who have peacefully asserted their rights.

Read the full resolution here:

Executive Board resolution demanding release of Esmail Abdi and other arrested leaders in Iran

The Executive Board of Education International, meeting on 1st December 2021

1. Notes with serious concerns that:

a. Esmail Abdi, former Secretary General of Iranian Teachers’ Trade Association (ITTA), has been imprisoned on numerous occasions since 2006 on trumped up charges of “propaganda against the State” and “espionage”.

b. He was sentenced to five years in 2016 on fictitious charges of “spreading propaganda against the system” and “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security”.

c. To prevent his release, the Iranian authorities, executed a suspended 10-year sentence related to a 2011 case, at the end of his previous sentence on 11 January 2021 thereby imprisoning him until 2031.

d. Long imprisonment and ill treatment in the prison has severely affected his health.

e. Esmail’s family (wife, two daughters and a son) are harassed and victimised by the security forces and at a serious risk.

2. Recognises that:

a. Esmail Abdi is imprisoned solely for his peaceful trade union activities, including associating with Education International, organising peaceful demonstrations by teachers outside parliament in April 2015 to protest against poor wages, the inadequate education budget and imprisonment of teacher trade unionists.

b. His arrest and the arrest of other trade unionists and human rights defenders are violations of freedom of association, the right to organise and freedom of speech.

3. Calls on the Iranian Government to:

a. Unconditionally drop all charges and release Esmail Abdi and other imprisoned trade unionists and human rights defenders in Iran.

b. Respect and uphold the rights of teachers and education workers to organise and to freedom of association and freedom of speech including the right to peaceful assembly, without fear of intervention by the authorities.

c. Institutionalise dialogue with representative organisations of teachers and education personnel on issues related to the education policy and teachers.

d. Respect the rights and privacy of the family members of Esmail Abdi and the imprisoned leaders and ensure their safety and wellbeing.

4. Calls on member organisations to:

a. Join EI’s call for an immediate release of Esmail Abdi and other imprisoned leaders.

b. Join EI’s efforts to ensure safety and wellbeing of Esmail Abdi’s family members.