Iran: Education International denounces harassment of teachers at United Nations Human Rights Committee

published 13 October 2023 updated 21 March 2024

Education International (EI) denounced the arbitrary detention and torture of teachers and students, particularly girls, in Iran, to the United Nations Human Rights Committee on October 9 in Geneva. As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Iran is obligated to uphold rights related to freedom of association, assembly, and expression.

EI's focus was on the repression of teacher union leaders from the Coordinating Council of Iranian Teacher Trade Associations (CCITTA), who have been detained for exercising international legal union activities. Speaking on behalf of EI, Mrs. Dominique Marlet, Research, Policy, and Advocacy Senior Coordinator at EI, highlighted the persistent violations of freedom of association for teachers within Iran.

Violation of Union Rights in Iran

EI's submission outlined the harsh prohibition and suppression of demonstrations, the unjust arrests and arbitrary detentions of peaceful protestors, and the detention and torture of trade unionists. Iranian law severely restricts the right to freedom of association and assembly, making it difficult for workers to join organizations of their choice and creating obstacles for unions in their administrative, rule-adoption, and leadership election processes. Strikes are prohibited, and there are no legal safeguards against anti-union discrimination. These issues extend beyond education to affect unionised workers in various industries, including oil, gas, iron, steel, and sugarcane, where workers face unlawful harassment, detention, and torture.

EI also presented its research documenting 358 chemical attacks against girls’ schools during the protests for “Woman, Life, Freedom”, which were part of the ruling powers' campaign to suppress the movement for women’s rights.

Call for Action

International workers' organisations and independent unions within Iran are calling for legislative changes that protect fundamental labour rights, echoing previous recommendations made by the UN Human Rights Committee. Additionally, a unified call for the immediate and unconditional release of any trade unionists detained solely for peacefully exercising their internationally recognised union rights is made.

During the 139th session of the UN Human Rights Committee on October 9-10, Committee members raised questions to the Iranian delegation. These questions covered charges against detained teachers and unionists, the duration of preventive detention, instances of torture, and whether authorities had initiated investigations into reported rights violations. Specific questions were also asked about chemical attacks against girls' schools and the widespread discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities in their access to education, health, and work.

Iran's Response

The Iranian delegation provided superficial responses and denied allegations of police brutality, arbitrary detention, and the existence of torture. Iran also denied discrimination against women and minorities.

This examination of Iran's human rights record brought numerous concerns to light, with education prominently positioned. While it may not provide an immediate solution to pressing issues for teacher unionists, it underscores the importance of international scrutiny and accountability.

For years Iranian teachers have been voicing their legitimate demands for decent working conditions and the recognition of their fundamental rights and freedoms as workers and as citizens. Education International stands in solidarity with teachers, unionists, and others in the education community in Iran who are working to ensure develop a safe and inclusive learning environment for all.