A group of independent human rights experts appointed by the United Nations raised concerns on Wednesday over a “violent crackdown” on teachers and other civil activists by Iranian authorities.
"We are alarmed at the recent escalation of arbitrary arrests of teachers, labor rights defenders and union leaders, lawyers, human rights defenders and other civil society actors," the experts said in a statement.
The UN condemnation came as Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedow kicked off an official visit to Iran, where he held talks with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his Iranian counterpart Ibrahim Raisi.
In the past months, Iranian teachers and other employees have organized several nation-wide protests over working conditions, low wages and the impact of inflation on their salaries, which official figures put at around 40 percent.
Their protests came in the context of an extremely dire economic situation, affected by the international sanctions imposed on the regime in Tehran.
As a response to the protests, the security forces prevented gatherings and arrested several teachers, and transferred them to a detention center, sparking more demonstrations that demanded their release.
“We recall that the Government is the primary duty-bearer in the protection and promotion of human rights, including by mitigating the impacts of sanctions,” the UN experts stressed in their statement.
In May, Human Rights Watch also called for the release of 40 teachers who were arrested on May 1 during nationwide peaceful mobilization and protests held on the occasion of the International Workers’ Day and the Teachers’ Day in Iran.
The UN experts said that prior to the May 1 protests and until 24 May, 2022, over 80 teachers were arrested or summoned by security forces or the judiciary, and the houses of several trade unionists and teachers were raided.
“The space for civil society and independent associations to carry out their legitimate work and activities is becoming impossibly narrow, exemplified by the large-scale arrests of civil society actors,” they said.
The experts also affirmed that at least five protesters have been killed as a result of excessive use of force by Iranian security forces, urging those responsible for using excessive force to be held to account through comprehensive and independent investigations.