Teachers Arrested for Peaceful Assembly and Association
(New York, April 14, 2007) - The Iranian authorities should immediately lift the ban on the Hamedan Teachers Association and release teachers detained as a result of their work with the association, Human Rights Watch said today.
The Hamedan Teachers Association is one of 34 local professional organizations that work under the umbrella of the National Council of Teachers Association. During the last two months, Teachers Associations nationwide have been active in organizing peaceful demonstrations to rally the government for better wages and benefits. As a result of these activities, Iranian authorities have banned the Hamedan Teachers Association, cracked down on these gatherings, and have arrested teachers in several cities.
"The government's banning of the Hamedan Teachers Association and the arrest of its members demonstrate Iran's flagrant disregard for its own laws and its obligations under international human rights law," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
At approximately 8 p.m. on April 7, security forces in the city of Hamedan arrested 33 teachers after the weekly meeting of the Hamedan Teachers Association. Later that evening, security forces went to the homes of 12 other Association teachers and arrested them at their residences. The detainees included the entire governing board of the Hamedan Teachers Association.
On Tuesday the spokesperson of the Iranian Judiciary, Alireza Jamshidi, told the Iranian press that the government had banned the Hamedan Teachers Association and that the teachers were arrested as a result of continuing their activities with the Association. He confirmed that 30 of the teachers had been freed, 21 of whom were released within 24 hours of their arrest. According to the Hamedan Teachers Association, at least nine of the teachers remain in detention.
Article 26 of the Iranian Constitution guarantees citizens the right of forming professional associations. Article 27 states that peaceful gatherings may be freely held.
In addition, Iran is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and as such is legally bound to protect freedom of association, expression, and assembly, and prohibit arbitrary detention, such as detention resulting from the exercise of one of these rights.
In the last month, teachers in numerous cities have been participating in peaceful demonstrations to call for equity in pay and benefits with other governmental employees. On March 3, in Tehran, teachers began a peaceful gathering in front of the Iranian parliament protesting governmental neglect of their situation. These demonstrations continued over the course of two weeks. Teachers in other cities such as Kermanshah, Zanjan, and Ardibil held simultaneous demonstrations in solidarity.
On March 14, riot police and security forces appeared and arrested hundreds from the thousands of teachers demonstrating in front of the Iranian parliament. The authorities have since released all of the detainees. However, the government continues to harass teachers who are active in their professional associations.
On April 9, security forces with warrants searched the homes of several members of Tehran's Teachers Association and served them with summonses to appear in court.
According to reports in the Iranian press, the Disciplinary Committees of the Department of Education and Training have summoned members of local Teachers Associations to appear before them in order to answer questions about their participation in demonstrations.
In protest of the continued harassment of activist teachers throughout Iran, the National Council of Teachers Associations has called for demonstrations on May 2, National Iranian Teachers Day. The purpose of this gathering will be to demand the resignation of the Minister of the Department of Education and Training and to ask for a formal apology from the government for the manner in which it has treated the teachers.
"The government should
immediately release the teachers in Hamedan and cease its lawless and arbitrary
campaign against teachers' associations, their members, and their peaceful
activities," said Whitson.
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