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Teachers Again Protesting Low Pay, Poor Conditions

Kermanshah, Iran - Teachers & retired teachers in an earlier protest in January.

Iranian teachers once again poured into the streets in several cities across the country February 14, calling for a living wage, the scrapping of tuition fees, and release of their colleagues from prison.

Retired educators also joined the rallies, which took place in Ardebil, Kermanshah, Marivan, Mashhad, and Urmia, among other cities, with protestors gathering outside the local Education Ministry branch offices to demand their pensions be adjusted to reflect the decimated purchasing power of the rial. Iran’s currency plummeted in value against the dollar in 2018 amid worsening economic conditions that were exacerbated by the reintroduction of economic sanctions after the U.S. withdrew from the nuclear deal in May.

Teachers’ strikes and demonstrations have become common in Iran over the last two years, with low teacher salaries and sub-standard schools cited by protestors as their top grievances.

Based on free-market exchange rates, Iranian teachers now earn less than $100 a month. As the rial has lost most of its value, prices for basic necessities have also skyrocketed amid double-digit inflation, meaning a single-income teacher can barely afford food.

Teachers further accuse the country’s authorities ofignoring their obligation laid out in the constitution to provide a free, quality education to all. Iran’s Coordinating Council of Teachers Syndicates and other teachers’ unions have called for a halt to what they say is the privatization of public education through the introduction of tuition fees, saying such fees are in violation of Iran’s constitution.

The teachers also demand the right to teach in minority languages.

Witnesses report security forces and plainclothesmen were sent in droves to disperse the demonstrators.

Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which mandates freedom of association and guarantees the right to form trade unions. It has also signed the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which guarantees the right of workers to form or join trade unions and hold strikes.

"Labor activism in Iran is seen as a national security offense; independent labor unions are not allowed to function, strikers are often fired and risk arrest, and labor leaders are consistently prosecuted under catchall national security charges and sentenced to long prison terms,” the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said in a statement.

Three teachers union leaders, Mohammad Habibi, Mahmoud Beheshti Langroodi, and Esmail Abdi, are serving prison terms on charges of national security crimes.

The teachers insist they will continue their demonstrations until all their demands are met.