Thousands of Iranian teachers led by the country’s teachers’ union rallied nationwide over the weekend against the Islamic government, demanding higher wages, pensions, human rights, and the release of their imprisoned colleagues suffering in various state-run prisons. The protests took place all throughout the country including in the capital Tehran, as well as in Ahvaz, Sari, Rasht, Sanandaj, and others. Throughout Iran, teachers carried signs, chanting for the freedom of detained teachers and for the removal of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
Iranian workers, ranging from the country’s agricultural sector, shop owners, bazaar merchants, and others, also took to the streets to protest with Iranian teachers, chanting for the resignation of regime officials, human rights abuses, taxes, and corruption inside the Islamic government.
Many of the protesters were able to spread their message by posting videos, hashtags, and photos on social media websites like Twitter and Facebook, highlighting the dire circumstances they and many others face under the Islamic Republic. On social media, many Iranians slammed President Raisi, calling him a liar and someone who did nothing to fulfill his promises to fix the economic situation in the country. While President Raisi and his officials have issued statements sympathizing with the economic plight of Iranian teachers and promises to address their concerns, the actions of Iran’s security forces signal a different response.
The Islamic Republic’s intelligence agents and security forces detained several hundred leading activists nationwide in places like Shiraz and the Kurdish majority provinces in western Iran as a preemptive action to minimize the growth of the demonstrations. Experts familiar with the protests argue that the arrests tried to intimidate other teachers from protesting and to prevent a potential revolution from occurring.
Protesters protesting outside the Iranian parliament building in Tehran faced security forces and special units, whose task was to suppress the demonstrations through brutal force. In the northeastern part of Iran, security forces cordoned off areas where protesters planned to gather. In response to the arrests made by the security forces, Iran’s Teachers Union condemned the brutal repressive actions, accusing the intelligence community and security forces of pressuring their arrested peers into making false confessions about the movement.
Amid the ongoing protests, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, issued a report outlining the economic crisis in Iran and condemned the Islamic Republic’s use of brutal force against teachers and workers. U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price condemned the use of violence against Iranian teachers and workers, stating that the Biden Administration would continue to support the right of every Iranian to express their freedoms and hold the regime accountable for their actions.
The Iranian teachers’ protests have been one of many that have occurred in the past few months in Iran due to the ongoing economic collapse. After the Trump administration enacted its maximum-pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic and placed crippling sanctions on regime officials and targeted segments within the country’s economy, Iranians took to the streets, demanding the government cease its sponsor of terrorism and focus on addressing the needs of the people. Before being blocked on Twitter, President Trump expressed sympathy for Iranian protesters, vowing that the United States would help them in any way possible.
Iranian nurses, firefighters, students, judiciary employees, businesses, pensioners, teachers, and others have continued to protest even under the Biden administration, which many have accused of not taking a much stronger stance against Iran. As the U.S. and Tehran continue their negotiations over the 2015 nuclear agreement, the political situation in Iran continues to worsen with more arrests, executions, and an increase in necessities like bread.
The Islamic Republic has alleged that protest movements and their leadership are conspiring with foreign states who want to overthrow the regime. The Intelligence Ministry announced last month the arrest of a French teacher unionist, Cecile Kohler, and her partner Chuck Paris as “foreign spies” who wanted to use the teacher protests in Iran and turn them into violent unrest. The Islamic state-run media has gone insofar to portray protests like the teacher movement as saboteurs backed by foreign intelligence agencies like the CIA and the Israeli Mossad.
The regime has cut off the country’s Internet to prevent people from talking about the protests on social media, imprisoned journalists, and used live ammunition to kill unarmed teachers, workers, students, and ordinary civilians on the streets. While the international community has issued condemnations against such actions, the Islamic Regime under Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has brushed aside the international outcry, continuing its crackdowns without facing any repercussions.
Pro-democratic Iranian organizations and human rights activists abroad have highlighted both the protest movements and the brutal actions of the Islamic security forces to pressure members of Congress to stand with the Iranian people and confront the Islamic Republic. Republican and Democratic members of Congress have also highlighted the protest movements, calling on the Biden administration to continue the maximum pressure campaign against Iran’s regime and not engage in negotiations as they engage in brutal crackdowns.