Prominent teachers' rights activist Hashem Khastar, who mysteriously disappeared October 23 in the city of Mashhad in northeast Iran, is being detained by the Islamic Republic’s Intelligence Ministry at a psychiatric hospital, his wife disclosed in an exclusive interview with Radio Farda’s Mahtab Vahidirad.
"Without clear charges, my husband has been detained by the Intelligence Ministry and, for unknown reasons, taken to a psychiatric hospital in Mashhad," said Khastar’s wife, Sediqeh Maleki, insisting that her husband is not suffering from any mental or physical illness.
Khastar, a former teacher at the Agriculture Technical High School in Mashhad and an agricultural engineer, is the Head of the Mashhad Teachers Union.
He went missing October 23, and Maleki says his cellphone was turned off and his car left parked outside his home in Golbahar Park.
Two days later, Khastar's relatives received a call from an unknown telephone number and were informed he had been hospitalized for a psychiatric disorder at a hospital in Mashhad, where they were allowed to visit him.
It is not yet clear, however, who made the decision to admit him to the hospital.
"My husband is in good health and does not take any medicine,” said Maleki. “While at the psychiatric hospital, one of the sick men there attacked him.”
Khastar has been detained several times for defending teachers' rights, most recently having served a term from 2009 to 2011 in Mashhad's notorious prison, Vakilabad.
He has also publicly criticized the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in online forums and called him a "dictator" in a January 2018 commentary published by Iran Kargar, an Iranian pro-union group operating outside the country, VOA reported.
Earlier, the New York based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) reported the arrests of five Iranian Teachers' Trade Association members by Iranian authorities in connection with a nationwide teachers’ strike held October 13. The strike, called by Iran's Coordinating Council of Teachers’ Syndicates, saw teachers stage sit-ins at schools across the country to demand better wages and reforms of the national education system.
Following the two-day teachers’ strike, Khastar offered his gratitude to the striking teachers and criticized the Iranian regime in an open letter published on social media.
“We don’t have guns. Our guns are our pens and our words and our gatherings and our sit-ins,” Khastar wrote. “The guns are in the hands of those who protect lawless, tyrannical, cruel rulers instead of defending the rule of law. They defend those who steal millions and arrest petty thieves and cut off their hands and legs.”