Imprisoned Iran Labor Leader and Others Speak Out Against Deprioritizing Education

According to reports received from Iran, imprisoned teacher Mahmoud Beheshti Langaroudi, former secretary general and current speaker of Iran’s teachers’ union, issued a statement from Evin Prison (North of Tehran) saying that he started a hunger strike on April 20.

Political prisoner Mahmoud Beheshti Langaroudi has been arrested several times during the past few years and has been physically and psychologically tortured. His most recent detention dates back to September 6, 2015 when Ministry of Intelligence agents invaded his home and arrested him. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison in so-called revolutionary courts. 

In his letter, he said the purpose of his hunger strike is “to protest the oppressive rulings by judges of the revolutionary courts, Salavati and Moghisseh, which have condemned me to a total of 14 years in prison. I will go on hunger strike on Wednesday April 20, 2016 and continue until this sentence is commuted and I am promised a new trial in a public and lawful court. I will only have water, tea, sugar and salt. It must be noted that the responsibility of anything happening to me during or after this hunger strike is on all people who remained silent or indifferent against my justice-seeking appeal. Why was I sentenced to 14 years in prison?” 

His letter further contrasts the situation in Iran after the 1979 revolution with the present. He writes, “The revolution won and then an eight-year war and poverty and empty coffers and tolerance and patience …The war ended and the era for construction started. Authorities began to divide the spoils and their thirst for shares caused clear and widespread discrimination and salaries that were not reflective of increasing inflation, and gradual gossip and protests.”

He added: “Rouhani’s government came to power … for educational staff who were ashes under the fire … and teachers, thanks to the telegram groups, started widespread activities and 100-200 people strong groups were formed throughout the country. The result of their union was spontaneous sit-ins and rallies across the country without special leadership. These sit-ins and gatherings were in the middle of the road, organized, and supported by teachers’ unions and were generally known as silent gatherings, … but with the entry of a part of the Revolutionary Guards into the issue of teachers, once again the wave of arrests began and a number of union activists, including myself, were arrested and sent to prison.”

Referring to the fact that none of the union activities were crimes, he said: “Unfortunately … it is more than 37 years that revolutionary courts have been addressing these cases illegally and in closed sessions, and due to their oppressive sentences, many innocent people have been imprisoned or await imprisonment. I have been sentenced in three separate verdicts in these closed courts to 14 years in prison.”

The National Council of Resistance of Iran issued a statement on September 8, 2015, saying: “On 6 September 2015, the Iranian’s intelligence elements arrested teachers’ activist Mr. Mahmoud Beheshti Langaroudi and confiscated some of his personal belongings at his home. A day prior to his arrest (on September 5), he had raised teachers’ issues and demands with Mohammad Bagher Nobakht, speaker of Hassan Rouhani’s government.”

Ms. Soheila Sadeq, chairperson of the NCRI’s Education Committee, called on international education organizations and teachers’ unions in various countries to “condemn suppression of teachers and violation of their basic rights by the religious dictatorship in Iran and to support the demands of Iranian teachers.”  

She added: “For the decrepit and corrupt regime of velayat-e-faqih [absolute clerical rule] that spends all the assets of the Iranian people on nuclear and anti-national projects and warmongering in the region and killings in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and so on, the lives of teachers and educational status of children and the welfare and prosperity of working people and the Iranian people, do not matter. As long as this regime is in power, economic and social crises are getting more severe every day. The overthrow of the religious fascism and establishment of democracy and popular sovereignty is a pre-requisite to an end to poverty, inflation and unemployment and the plight of the education system in Iran.”