Iranian security forces detained several Kurdish labour activists and teachers before and during International Workers’ Day across Iranian Kurdistan.

On 1 May 2022, coinciding with International Workers’ Day and on the eve of the day that has been named Teacher’s Day in Iran, numerous protest rallies were held in various cities of Iran by labour activists and teachers.

The Coordination Council of Iranian Cultural Associations had previously announced a nationwide gathering of teachers in Tehran and in front of the General Directorate of Education in various cities of Iran at the same time as International Workers’ Day.

The protests took place at a time when in recent days a number of union activists had been summoned, interrogated, and detained by security forces and threatened for not holding any non-governmental ceremonies on this day.

A few days before the protest rallies, a number of teachers in the cities of Sanandaj, Marivan, and Saqqez were summoned to the offices of the Ministry of Intelligence of these cities and threatened.

On 30 April, the intelligence ministry in Saqqez summoned at least 10 teachers.

On the same day, Salah Sorkhi, a member of the Kurdistan Teachers’ Union (Saqqez and Ziviyeh), was detained by security forces in Saqqez until 2 May at an undisclosed location.

After Sorkhi’s detention, security forces went to his family home and confiscated some of his personal belongings, including his mobile phone, computer, and personal documents.

Despite these threats, on 1 May, a group of teachers in Saqqez held a protest rally at the same time as other cities in Iran. Whilst gathering teachers protested against the detentions of teachers, they chanted slogans and held placards to express their demands.

Some of the placards read: “If the constitution needs to be changed, it must happen”, “Education promotes violence because it prevents children from flourishing”, and “Salah Sorkhi must be freed.”

On the same day, after the teachers’ gathering, a number of them appeared at Sorkhi’s family home and, while meeting with his family, once again showed their solidarity with their colleague and protested against his detention.

On 2 May, at the same time as Eid al-Fitr, some other teachers and civilians visited the Sorkhi family and expressed their solidarity with the detained teacher.

An informed source in Saqqez spoke to the Kurdistan Human Rights Network (KHRN) about security pressures on teachers’ union activists in the city and said: “While the protesting teachers demanded the release of their colleagues, including Salah Sorkhi, during the 1 May rally, the case of nine others, including Leyla Enayatzadeh, Taher Hamedi, Taher Ghaderzadeh, Amanj Amini, Aziz Marzi, Ahmad Ghaderi, Khaled Abdollahi, and Soleiman Abdi has been referred to the court of Saqqez. Despite all these pressures, teachers in Saqqez have stressed that they will not leave their colleagues alone and have called for the abolition of illegal and security cases against union activists.”

According to this source, an SMS was sent to some teachers participating in the rally on 2 May in front of the Saqqez Education Department, stating that their case had been referred to the Saqqez Prosecutor’s Office and that they would be informed if they needed to attend.

Separately, on 30 April, the intelligence ministry in Marivan detained three members of the board of the Kurdistan Teachers’ Union – Shaban Mohammadi, Eskandar Lotfi and Massoud Nikkhah – with the aim of threatening and intimidating teachers, on their way from Sanandaj to Marivan and transferred them to a disclosed location.

Reportedly, on 1 May, security measures were taken in Marivan, especially in the streets leading to the General Directorate of Education.

Despite these measures, some teachers took part in the protest and were attacked by undercover officers with electric shocks and beaten, including Aram Ghaderi and Aram Mohammadi.

Other rallies were held in front of the General Directorate of Education in Kermanshah and Divandarreh, with demonstrators protesting the detention of their colleagues in other cities under the slogan of “The imprisoned teacher should be released.”

So far, no information is available on the detention or summoning of activists in these cities.

Security forces also detained a number of activists in various cities in Kurdistan on the eve of International Workers’ Day in order to prevent workers’ protests.

On 26 April, the Intelligence Organisation of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) detained seven labour activists named Nishtiman Rahmati, Parvin Abdollahpour, Hassan Ezzati, Saeid Mohammadi, Omar Soleimani, Fateh Majidi, and Afshin Rahimi in Baneh.

Also, following the pressure on labour activists, on the eve of International Workers’ Day, at least four labour activists named Mozaffar Salehnia, Sheis Amani, Towfigh Mahmoudi and Armin Sharifeh were summoned by the Ministry of Intelligence and the Intelligence Organisation of the IRGC in Sanandaj and were interrogated for several hours.

On 30 April, Osman Esmaeili, a prominent labour activist from Saqqez, was detained by security forces on his way home from work. Security forces also went to his family home the next day and confiscated some of his personal belongings.

Despite such pressures, at the same time as International Workers’ Day, various protest rallies were held by workers and labour activists in various cities in Kurdistan, including Marivan, Sanandaj and Bukan, during which demonstrators expressed their demands.

On 1 May, some labour activists held a ceremony in Bukan on the occasion of the worker’s day. The ceremony ended with the reading of a joint resolution of the workers of the cities of Baneh, Bukan and Saqqez, which consisted of 12 clauses.

It stated that: “Unemployment and high prices continue to rise in our society. Workers’ tables [at home] are under the shadow of high prices, unbridled inflation, wages below the poverty line, job insecurity with the prevalence of temporary and white-collar contracts, etc. such that in recent years all economic programs proposed to get out of the crisis have been entirely a function of the austerity programs dictated by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. From legalising the dismissal of workers in the labour law to raising the retirement age step by step, paying retirees’ wages step by step, and so on.”