Esmail Abdi, teacher and Secretary-General of the Iran Teachers Guild Center, saw his passport confiscated and has been prevented from leaving the country as he sought to depart Iran for Canada through Armenia on Sunday, January 20th, 2015. (He was attempting to attend an international education session (ET) in Canada to which he was invited to.)
He went to Tehran’s Evin Prison on Saturday June 27th 2015 to follow-up on his ban from exiting the country. He was subsequently imprisoned on the same day.
Around 80 of Mr. Abdi’s colleagues and members of the Teachers Guild Center rallied outside Evin Prison and raised placards written, “We are all Abdi,” protesting his detention.
Mr. Abdi had been previously detained on four different occasions (from 2006 to 2009) and sentenced to jail due to this guild activities. In the summer of 2009 he was interviewed by a foreign media outlet regarding education conditions and a number of imprisoned teachers, after which he was arrested and spent 44 days in Evin Prison because of this interview. Following his release on bail, in July 2011 Tehran’s 26th branch of revolutionary courts chaired by Judge Pir-Abbasi sentenced Abdi to 10 years behind bars on security charges, propaganda against the state, and contact with enemy states. His sentence was later downgraded to five years behind bars.
In April 2015 Abdi was summoned once again and the cancellation of his sentence was conditioned on resigning from his post. This resignation was not accepted by the Teachers Guild Center executive board. Abdi’s first court hearings were held behind closed doors.
Abdi was accused and tried on charges such as “assembly and collusion with the intention of planning to disrupt public order” and “propaganda against the state”. In fact his “crime” consisted in his guild activities as the Secretary-General of the Teachers Guild Center, along with organizing and taking part in the stated rallies.
In mid-July 2015, referring to the footnote of article 48 of Iran’s Penalty Law, the court banned Mr. Abdi from choosing his own lawyer, ordering that according to the new law he must only choose his representative from a list of lawyers approved by the judiciary.
Following his arrest he was transferred to solitary confinement in ward 2A (under IRGC supervision) in Evin Prison, and banned from any visits by his family and lawyer. He was placed under interrogation and transferred to ward 8 of Evin Prison in mid-August 2015. Ward 8 is one of the worst sections of Evin Prison in which a large number of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience are held in violation of the principal of separating prisoners based on their charges (political prisoners from ordinary inmates). His final verdict was six years behind bars.
International organizations protested his arrest, including: World Education Organization, UK Nationwide Teachers Union, UK College & University Professors Union and the Canadian Teachers Federation, all issuing letters and statements in support of this teacher.
Ismaeel Abdi and Jafar Azimzadeh (labor activist) issued a joint statement on April 29th, 2016 from ward 8 of Evin Prison launching their unlimited hunger strike. They were both transferred to the prison clinic due to their ill conditions.
Reason Behind Hunger Strike:
Protesting the imposition of a climate of security around guild activities, rallies and strikes held by workers and teachers, below poverty line wages, ban on holding independent and free rallies on World Labor Day and World Teachers Day, lack of transparency and effective action by the World Labor Organization in the face of basic rights violations against Iran’s workers and teachers, demanding the charges of “assembly and collusion with the intention of planning against national security” and other security allegations from be dropped the court cases of protesting workers and teachers, and to also drop bogus and fabricated allegations from their own and other jailed workers and teachers’ court dossiers.
Background – Following evaluation of the 2015 budget bill in Iran’s parliament, teachers began their protest as it was made clear there were no changes in the education budget. On March 2nd, 2015 teachers in the provinces of Ghazvin, Kurdistan, Khuzestan, Lorestan, Khorasan, Fars and Hormozgan held rallies outside their respective education department offices. Teachers in Tehran held a rally on this very day outside the parliament to express their protests and outrage. These gatherings were held in response to calls made by the Iran Teachers Guild Center. This entity had sent a letter to the Interior Ministry requesting permission to hold a peaceful rally.