Over the past few weeks Iran has witnessed a rise in tensions. However, these tensions were not only caused by issues relating to Iran’s foreign policies, the country has had to deal with a number of serious interior issues as well. Aside from the issues relating to workers, students and women, the most important issue last month has been the demonstrations staged by members of the Teachers’ Guild Association [Kanun-i senfi-yi moalleman] across the country.
Over the past month, teachers have staged six protests outside parliament in Tehran starting from February 4th and later on February 21st and March 6th, 8th and 14th respectively. Supported by the Teachers’ Guild Association, these demonstrations gave rise to other protests in various Iranian cities.
According to the organizers of these demonstrations, despite the promises made, their lives had taken a turn for the worse to state matters mildly. One of the organizers of the movement maintains that they have endured great difficulty in living and said that in addition to the governmental pledges been broken, the teachers’ life conditions have been steadily deteriorating over the years.
Their foremost demand is that the teachers’ salaries must be adjusted to equal that of other public-sector employees, furthermore adding that if the government’s low budget is the reason behind this inequality then it should look into allocating what is expended in other fields to be granted for teachers’ necessities. [According to the varying assertions of governmental officials and independent observers, Iran’s annual rate of inflation falls within the range of 12-20 percent, which would indicate that the salaries of teachers have fallen below the rising cost of living.]
And yet despite the outbreak of these teachers’ demonstrations in Tehran and other cities, the national media did not cover the event in any way, failing to even allude to the presence of these movements. However, it is worth noting that the national media tends to cover all the significant and insignificant news pertaining to the different foreign countries, in addition to all the movements that are supportive of the government.
The teachers who participated in the protests deem these demonstrations to be part of the guild’s activities and uphold that they are far removed from politics. They have attempted to guard these movements against political manipulation, so far succeeding in their efforts. Contrastingly, the manner in which the government has dealt with this movement has evinced the confusion of the governors. Arresting the organizers of the movement, closing underground metro stations to prevent other teachers from joining the demonstrations and disabling mobile operators – among other tactics used – reveals the extent of the government’s panic.
Incidentally, the irregular negotiations between the teachers’ representatives and various parliamentarians and government officials have not been finalized and the negotiations still lack conclusions. Following this failure, the newspapers have shown no interest in covering these strikes, despite the fact that Iran has been in an acute political state over these past few days. Moreover the filtering on news websites has made it increasingly difficult to access information relating to this movement.
The teachers’ movement has had multiple repercussions such as demonstrations, negotiation with governors, and the closing down of schools ¬– all of which has put the government in a tight spot. The other issue revolves around the Education Minister’s [Mahmud Farshidi] incapacity and his ministry’s incapability of managing the large number of protestors, which has resulted in significantly deepening the current crisis. If this movement leads to the closing down of schools and if students were to join the demonstrations (as has been previously announced); who will be responsible for the possible consequences? If that were to happen, teachers will undoubtedly receive the support of other trade unions ¬– this, of course, is provided the teachers are not subjected to any harsh treatment from the governors.
From an Islamic standpoint, teachers are esteemed as highly as prophets, it is a travesty that they suffer such difficult circumstances where they are pushed to protest in the streets in an attempt to solve their financial problems. Such is the situation in Iran while in other countries teaching is among the highest-earning jobs.
It remains to be said that the manner in which the government will respond to the demands made by teachers, whether positive or negative, will be of critical importance. On the one hand, a positive response will mean that a huge budget will be required, considering the number of promises the government made and didn’t keep, which can only make other professional institutions follow suit. However on the other hand, a negative response or postponing the issue will result in the teachers tightening their grip on the government by increasing pressure and staging more protests across the country.
The prevalence of these protests will complicate matters for the government, as it cannot treat teachers the same way it has treated other guilds.