Ã¢â‚¬Å“Hello. I am Alireza Akbari’s daughter. My father is a teacher who is in jail right now. I used to think that jail was a place for bad people, now I know that jail is a place for teachers. I have not seen my father for 20 days. I haven’t even heard his voice. I have not heard from him for 20 days and I don’t know what he is doing. What is he thinking about? I only want to have a short conversation with him and hear him say that he is well. That is allÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ just, only that,Ã¢â‚¬Â said Elahe Akbari to a crowed of teachers in Tehran.
On May 2nd when 10 year-old Elahe made those statements at a gathering of teachers, thousands cried. They cried because of her innocent voice, because of the brutality of the mullahs and Revolutionary Guards, and because of the countless unwarranted expulsions and detentions.
Teachers are protesting and demanding the immediate release of their imprisoned colleagues. The protests began as a battle against low wages and discrimination against teachers compared to other government employees.
Now, 1.3 million teachers have joined among the poorest strata of the Iranian society, a trend that began twenty-eight years ago. With a base salary of $200 per month, even after thirty years in the job, a teacher has a hard time receiving a loan to purchase a home.
Working hours continue to increase without appropriate pay raises, and as a result, it has become virtually impossible to spend extra hours for a second job.
These problems have given rise to widespread protests. Teachers have demonstrated in front of the Mullah’s Majlis (Parliament) on numerous occasions. They have staged demonstrations in Tehran and 15 other provinces across Iran during the past month. The effects of these protests, which have resulted in school closures, have created significant challenges for the mullahs.
This situation raises a key concern about the reason mullahs are not willing to meet teacherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s demands. This could easily be met for a country that has generated 56 billion dollars of oil revenue in 2006. Some officials are concerned that increased pay for the teachers would raise the inflation, a claim which is rejected by many experts familiar with the Iranian economy.
However, the Iranian regime is concerned that if teachers’ demands are met in a society that is filled with discontent, the extent of protests in other sectors will grow out of control, a state of affairs reminiscent of the circumstances surrounding the Shah’s overthrow.
The methods used to suppress the protests are not new: detentions along with $80,000 bonds; expulsion of active protestors; violence against demonstrators; and constant threats against organizers.
The mullahs’ response reveals that they are incapable of resolving profound problems within the Iranian society. Experts foresee expansion of these demonstrations in coming weeks. Students and workers have also been busy with extended demonstrations and sit-ins in the past month.
It was previously thought that pursuit of a decisive policy against the mullahs’ regime by the international community will unite Iranian people in support of the regime. This claim is disproved by the emergence of growing popular resistance against the regime following the adoption of three United Nations Security Council resolutions against the mullahs’ regime. Evidently, Iranian society strongly seeks the overthrow of this theocratic dictatorship.
Mohammad Amin, is an expert on Iranian affairs who writes for international news media and journals