Iranian security forces violently dispersed a protest rally in the Kurdish town of Sanandaj as teachers held demonstrations in multiple cities across the country.
The Coordinating Council of Teachers' Union had called for rallies outside the parliament building in Tehran and in front of the education departments in cities across Iran on May 9.
The council published a list of demands, including providing high-quality education and security in schools, "especially for female students," and the "unconditional release of all teachers' rights activists in detention."
Security forces were deployed in some education departments to prevent gatherings, and there have been reports of internet outages and disruptions in some cities.
According to a video obtained by IranWire, security agents attacked teachers who had gathered in the streets of Sanandaj, the provincial capital of western Kurdistan province, chanting slogans such as "Woman, Life, Freedom" and "Free imprisoned teachers."
Another footage showed security officers of the education department in the western city of Hamedan preventing teachers from entering the building. As a result, the protesters held their rally in the street.
In the cities of Shush, Shahor and Karkheh, teachers gathered in front of education departments. In a video sent to IranWire, one of the teachers said that the rally aimed to defend the teachers held behind bars and to pursue the demands of the teachers' union.
🎥 سهشنبه ۱۹ اردیبهشت ماه ۱۴۰۲ - همدان تجمع سراسری معلمان.#اعتصابات_سراسری #مهسا_امینی #اعتراضات_معلمان #اعتراضات_سراسری pic.twitter.com/yofqxIZL2Q— ایران وایر (@iranwire) May 9, 2023
Videos shared on social media showed similar protests in Ahvaz, Harsin and Arak.
In Mashhad, police arrested a teacher, Ateke Rajabi, after she left her home to participate in a teachers' rally in the north-eastern city.
Rajabi reportedly received threats in the past few days. She was fired from her job last year after she refused to go to class in September and published videos criticizing the government's treatment of students and teachers.
The call for nationwide protests of Iranian teachers has been welcomed by activists and labor organizations.
Zamimeh, a campaign working to eliminate gender discrimination from textbooks, supported the call on its Twitter account, saying that children's right to safe education is a "fundamental human right."
🎥 تجمع سراسری معلمان در سنندج، سهشنبه ۱۹ اردیبهشت ماه ۱۴۰۲— ایران وایر (@iranwire) May 9, 2023
صبح امروز و در وی فراخوان تجمع اعتراضی معلمان در ایران، معلمان سنندج نیز دست به تجمع با شعارهای «ژن ژیان آزادی» و «معلم زندانی آزاد باید گردد» زدند.
گفته میشود تجمع معلمان سنندج با واکنش نیروهای امنیتی این شهر مواجه… pic.twitter.com/gjEUzldF2A
🎥 حملهی مأموران سرکوبگر امنیتی و انتظامی به تجمع و راهپیمائی اعتراضی معلمان در سنندج، سهشنبه ۱۹ اردیبهشت ماه ۱۴۰۲#اعتصابات_سراسری #مهسا_امینی #اعتراضات_معلمان #اعتراضات_سراسری pic.twitter.com/Fr79WLAMSg— ایران وایر (@iranwire) May 9, 2023
Ateke Rajabi, a young teacher from Khorasan Razavi province, expressed solidarity with the protests by publishing a video on his Twitter account. Rajabi was fired from his workplace after launching a one-person strike to protest the dismissal of one of his colleagues.
Unrest, including protests by teachers, has rattled Iran since last summer in response to declining living standards, wage arrears and a lack of welfare support.
Adding to the dissent, the September death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody for allegedly wearing a head scarf improperly breathed new life into the demonstrations, which the authorities have tried to quell with harsh measures.
🎥 سهشنبه ۱۹ اردیبهشت ماه ۱۴۰۲ ، تجمع سراسری معلمان در شوش استان خوزستان.#اعتصابات_سراسری #مهسا_امینی #اعتراضات_معلمان #اعتراضات_سراسری pic.twitter.com/3jAmZh9yZB— ایران وایر (@iranwire) May 9, 2023
Since November 2022, hundreds of girls’ schools across Iran have been targeted by poisoning attacks in what Amnesty International described as “a campaign that appears to be highly coordinated and organized.”
As many as 13,000 pupils have reportedly suffered symptoms including nausea, fainting, headaches, coughing, breathing difficulties and heart palpitations, with many requiring treatment in hospital.
The attacks appear to target girls for their involvement in nationwide protests sparked by Amini's death.