Esmail Abdi, a member of the board of directors of the Teachers’ Trade Association of Tehran (ITTA-Tehran), has been on hunger strike for 33 days since April 30, 2017.
Teachers’ union activists in Iran have been launching a variety of campaigns in support Esmail Abdi and for his freedom; however, due to restrictive political atmosphere in the country, organizing national campaigns have been extremely challenging.
Numerous open letters to the Iranian judiciary have been issued by prominent Iranian labour and teachers’ activists. In addition, a petition signed by more than 15000 teachers and other concerned individuals have been submitted to the IRI’s President and the Judiciary on May 24, 2017. The onlineversion of the petition continues to be active and hundreds more have added their signatures since it was given to the government, nearly 20,000 as of May 31, 2017. However, the government authorities have so far disregarded all these appeals; therefore, teachers have been calling for further actions and protests if Abdi is not going to be released. Throughout the Presidential election campaigns, teachers used every opportunity to highlight the plight of Esmail Abdi.
In an open letter on May 31, 2017 to Hassan Rouhani, President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Coordinating Council of the Iranian Teachers Trade Associations (CCITTA) stated: “Today, Esmail Abdi, in his 32nd day of hunger strike, is in a critical and dangerous condition….” CCITTA added that the “coordinating council and teachers in Iran, with eyes wide open, track the status of Esmail Abdi. The educators of this country have been expressing the above concerns in various forms, ranging from a petition signed by nearly twenty thousand, consultations with officials of the three branches of government, issuing statements of support from trade associations…. Undoubtedly, if the situation of Esmail Abdi is not addressed as soon as possible we will witness a human tragedy….It would be inevitable that if the demands of thousands of teachers are not paid attention to, teachers would view street protests as their legal right in order to vociferously pass their imprisoned colleague’s cry for justice to authorities.” (CCITTA, May 31, 2017)
Abdi’s lawyer, Mr. Hossein Taj, reported that Tehran Prosecutor’s office has agreed with Abdi’s transfer to a hospital outside the prison; however, they first decided to transport Abdi with handcuffs and prison uniform which faced Abdi’s objection thus he did not get transferred to the hospital until the authorities finally agreed to transfer Abdi to “Imam Khomeini” Hospital without handcuffs or prison uniform. However, this has not yet taken place and his family and colleagues have been told he might be transferred on Saturday, June 3, 2017.
International Campaigns for Abdi’s freedom continue:
Global protests have been crucial in this process. Education International, representing more than 32 million education employees in about in 170 countries and territories, across the globe, has reiterated its “global solidarity call to request the immediate and unconditional release of Esmail Abdi, a leader of the Tehran Teacher Trade Association, who was sentenced to six years in jail on false charges by Branch 36 of the Appeals Court of Tehran last October”…. “Esmail Abdi has been targeted by the Iranian authorities for his union activism and campaign for free and accessible public education for all. EI and union partners have demanded that the government lift all sanctions taken against education unionists for their legitimate trade union activities, and that it respect fundamental human and trade unions rights for all workers and public servants”. (Source: EI)
Teacher and education workers’ unions from Europe to Canada have been proactive in support of Abdi and have called on Iranian government to free Abdi immediately.
Amnesty International has had continuous urgent actions in support of Esmail Abdi: “Esmail Abdi, a mathematics teacher and a member of the board of directors of the Teachers’ Trade Association of Tehran (ITTA-Tehran), started a hunger strike on 30 April, on the eve of International Workers’ Day 2017. He is protesting the lack of independence of the judiciary and the sentencing of peaceful trade union activists to imprisonment on national security-related offences. In an open letter, dated 22 April, Esmail Abdi highlighted the Iranian authorities’ criminalization of peaceful activities in defence of workers’ rights. He asked in this letter: “Is it a crime to be a member of a trade association and participate in peaceful demonstrations? Is it a crime to speak out against the theft of public funds…? Is it a crime to gather signatures petitioning the government to uphold the law?” Information received by Amnesty International indicates that his general health has deteriorated as a result of the hunger strike. He is believed to be suffering from kidney pain, dizzy spells and alarming fluctuations in his blood pressure, and is said to have lost about seven kilograms of weight (Source: AI, May 17, 2017). Abdi has since lost more weights and his health has further deteriorated.
Please use the following model letter prepared by EI, or follow AI’s action recommendations, to demand Esmail Abdi immediate and unconditional freedom.
Update prepared by IASWI:
International Alliance in Support of Workers in Iran (IASWI)
[email protected]workers-iran.org/ www.workers-iran.org / www.etehadbinalmelali.com
Face book: https://www.facebook.com/IASWI
June 1, 2017
Freedom for Iranian teacher union leader Esmail Abdi
[Name of your organisation]condemns the six-year jail sentence and the harsh detention conditions imposed on Esmail Abdi, a leader of the Tehran Teacher Trade Association. Mr. Abdi wassentenced last October to six years in jail on false charges by Branch 36 of the Appeal Court of Tehran.
Mr. Abdi has been on hunger strike since 30 Aprilto protest the continued, unlawful repression of teachers and human rights defenders and the lack of independence of the judiciary in Iran. Reports also show that Mr. Abdi is kept in harsh detention conditions in the notorious Evin prison and that he is being denied communication with his family and lawyer. We have serious concerns about his safety and wellbeing.
[Name of your organisation] urges the Iranian authorities to:
– drop the unfounded charges against Mr. Abdi and take all necessary measures for his immediate and unconditional release;
– Respect the fundamental human and trade unions rights of all Iranian workers and public servants.
PLEASE SEND protest letters to:
• Leader of the Islamic Republic, Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei
Twitter: @khamenei_ir (English) or @Khamenei_fa (Persian)
Email: [email protected]
• President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @HassanRouhani (English) and
• IRI’s Minister of Education; Email: [email protected]
• Permanent Mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the United Nations
Email: [email protected]