Iran sentences teacher in growing crackdown: rights group

An Iranian court has sentenced a teachers’ union activist to a total of five years in prison after rare protests by education workers, a human rights group said on Tuesday.

Rasoul Bodaghi, a member of the teachers’ union and civil activist, was convicted last week in an “intensification of the crackdown on civil society in Iran”, the Norway-based Iran Human Rights (IHR) NGO said.

According to his lawyer, Ramin Safarnia, Bodaghi was sentenced to four years for illegal assembly and one year for “propaganda”. He was also banned for two years from living in Tehran or leaving the country.

The verdict comes after a string of unusual protests in Iran over the last months which have seen teachers take to the streets on regular occasions to protest their conditions and also the arrest of colleagues.

“My five-year prison sentence is for seeking justice and freedom. And for wanting to improve the education system and the rights of teachers and pupils,” Bodaghi told IHR..

His lawyer has appealed the sentence which has yet to be enforced.

The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran said Bodaghi had been sentenced solely for “peaceful activism” and the verdict had came ahead of a new round of protests set for April 21. 

The teachers have for months demanded that the government speed up the implementation of reforms that would see their salaries better reflect their experience and performance.

Protesters have called on the authorities to release teachers detained in earlier protests.

Hit by biting economic sanctions imposed since 2018 by the United States, Iran has seen inflation soar to over 40 percent, exacting a heavy toll on the standard of living of public sector staff and others on fixed incomes.