The secretary of one of Iran’s teachers’ organizations, Alireza Hashemi Sanjani, was arrested and taken to Evin Prison on April 18 following a nationwide protest days before.

“Security forces entered Mr. Hashemi’s house around 7:00am on Saturday while he was at work,” Tahereh Naqini, the deputy head of the union told Iranian Labour News Agency (ILNA). After his wife phoned Hashemi to inform him about the raid, Naqini said, he immediately returned home. Authorities then placed him under arrest.

In 2011, Hashemi was arrested on charges of “pursuing unionist demands and visiting the families of imprisoned teachers” and sentenced to five years in prison. Naqini told ILNA that she believed the recent arrest was in connection with these previous charges. She said that Hashemi has also been charged with “protest against the government and conspiracy against national security.”

Hashemi was also arrested for his union activism on March 13, 2007, following a rally outside parliament. He was sentenced to three years in prison. Following an appeal, the charges were dropped.

Iran’s Teachers’ Union expressed shock at the recent arrest of its secretary. Spokespeople said the move went against President Hassan Rouhani’s promotion of “moderation and rationality,“ part of the “prudence and hope” campaign that helped bring him to the presidency in 2013. The union cited a recent message from the Supreme Leader that endorsed “empathy and consensus” and called for people to work in harmony with these values.

Union members called for the government to “hear their call” and withdraw the verdict.

The union said it regarded Hashemi’s arrest as an attack on an individual who symbolized “social rationality and activism,” and added that such an attack was an “unwise imprudent measure” that threatened to “drive the unionist movement away from the path of rationality toward extremism” in what was a “turbulent” time.

“Is imprisonment the answer to moderation and rationality?” a union spokesmen said. “Is imprisonment the answer to the call for discourse and interaction? Is defending teachers’ livelihood and status a crime? Isn’t pursuing unionist demands within the framework of national interests a sign of prudence and wisdom? Is helping teachers and their organizations to establish closer ties with the government and preparing the grounds for interaction an irrational act?”

In a statement aimed at high-ranking state authorities, the union said:  “We expect you to hear our rightful protests and find a solution to prevent the aggravation of the existing security crackdown … Accordingly, we demand the immediate suspension of the verdict against our secretary and the release of all other imprisoned teachers.”

Earlier this month, teachers in Khuzestan organized rallies in several cities, calling for improved working conditions and salary upgrades. 

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