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By Safa Haeri
Posted Saturday, March 6, 2004

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"The thugs were retreating in defeat, but then came back as police and security forces in plainclothes arrived to their rescue in big motorcycles ", the source said.


TEHRAN 6 Mar. (IPS) Iran’s huge community of teachers went on a week-long nation-wide strike to protest officials "indifference" towards their most basic and urgent demands, starting with payment of unpaid salaries and adjustment of their status with other government employees.

While the Iranian official news agency IRNA said the strike is limited to a few cities, teachers said the movement is "almost nation-wide".

"In protest to the difficult situation of the profession, some" teachers in some cities like Tehran, Esfahan, Ardabil or Genaveh gathered at National Education departments to insist for their demands", IRNA reported on Saturday.

But sources close to the Iranian Teacher’s Association said the protest movement is "general, with the majority of the teachers stopping teaching, going on strike everywhere, at schools, but also in front of National Education offices in all major cities and even villages".

"Not only the government has not paid any attention to the years-long complaints of the teachers, one of the poorest social classes in the Islamic Republic, but has not allocated any increase in the next general budget for teachers pay, who with less than 100 US Dollars a month, receives the lowest wages among the State’s employees", one teacher told Iran Press Service on condition of anonymity.

He said most of the teachers have not received their salaries for months and faces considerable difficulties overcoming their families’ daily lives. "The more prices for basic food and necessities increases without any control from the government, the more our situation is dramatic", he said, warning the authorities that if they fail to meet teacher’s demands, they would launch an indefinite strike immediately after the start of the (Iranian) New Year that falls on 21 of March.

A spokeswoman for the Teachers Association said last year, President Mohammad Khatami formed a committee to look after the situation of the teachers, specially the burning question of the unpaid salaries, " but so far, the only thing we know is that government officials say there is nothing they can do to improve the situation of the teachers", she pointed out.

For their part, lawmakers at the outgoing reformists-controlled Majles, or parliament backed the teachers, warning that it would impeach the National Education Minister in case the government of the lamed and powerless Khatami fails to address "immediately" the teacher’s "legitimate demands".

In a statement published by some Iranian internet publications, the League of Combatant Teachers accused the "corrupt and inefficient" leaders of the Islamic Republic of "gross negligence" of the situation of the Iranian teachers and called on the community to go for a "total strike" until they get a positive answer from the government and also invited families of school children to back the teacher’s action.

"We ask Khatami to meet us, with the hope that he would hear our difficulties that he never took into consideration. If he continue with his adamant position, then he would be responsible, as we would go on an endless strike and protest demonstrations", the statement said.

Meanwhile as the authorities continue with their silence over the tragic dead of a young movie director, sources close to the family and friends confirmed Saturday that Mr. Ardeshir Afshin Zadeh was in fact killed in his apartment by the conservatives-controlled Islamic vigilante on the pretext that he and his guests were drinking alcohol and dancing on the eve of Ashoura, the commemoration of the death of imam Hoseyn, one of the Shi’a Muslim’s most revered saints.

"Ardeshir had thrown a party to celebrate ending his first film when his apartment was attacked by plainclothes men of the Ansar Hezbollah, who beat him to death. Alerted by friends, Police took him to a nearby hospital, but it was too late and in order to cover up the crime, they claimed that he was dead after jumping from the window. But this claim was denied by doctors who confirmed that the death was due to severe fractures of chest and other vital parts of the body due to serious beating", one friend reported.

Mr. Afshin Zadeh was killed on exactly the same night that hundred of young boys and girls, dressed in black and carrying candles in commemoration of Ashoura in a fashionable street in the centre of Tehran were attacked by Islamic thugs.

The street battle lasted for several hours, with the basiji volunteers charging the young ones with knives, chains, cables and other white arms in the one hand and mourners responding the Islamic vigilante with stones, an eyewitness reported.

"The thugs were retreating in defeat, but then came back as police and security forces in plainclothes arrived to their rescue in big motorcycles ", the source said, adding that as a result, the youngsters attacked administrative buildings, smashed telephone cabins and chanted nationalist songs and shouted slogans against the regime and its leaders, namely Khameneh’i and Khatami", he added.

Iranian political analysts say the controversial victory of the conservatives in the last legislative elections has encouraged the Islamic vigilante and pressure groups, increasing their pressures over the people, mostly the young generation thirsty of freedoms.

"What happened to Mr. Afshin Zadeh, bringing new charges against Mr. the outspoken writer and columnist Emameddin Baqi or extending detention period of nationalist-religious journalists and activists or denying urgently needed medical treatment to Mr. Ensafali Hedayat, the freelance journalist who is in jail on absolutely fabricated charges in the one hand and statements by some conservative candidate who have secured a seat in the next Majles that they would not tolerate the press crossing the so-called red lines on the other are all signs of adjusting the clocks back to the pre-reform time", one analyst told IPS.

"To show that the happy days of reform is definitively closed, Ayatollah Mahmood Hashemi Shahroodi, the Iraq-born Head of the Judiciary lately called for the special monkerat (Apply the Good and prohibit the Bad) units to be more vigilant against the young people that make away with Islamic code of social behaviour. As a result, one must expect more show down between the people and security forces. Time has arrived for the rulers to choose between keeping ideology or their survival", he added.

To confirm this view, the pro-reform daily "Sharq" said in a commentary on the Mirdamad Street fight between the youngsters and the vigilantes that "if the event is correctly reported, not only it confirms the trend of young generation’s approach to some of the people’s traditions and believes, a trend that is not new nor confined to a few young ones, but also highlights the opinion of some people who, because they have send their protégés to the Majles and are convinced or their coming control on the government, want also to display the political and social atmosphere of their liking for their citizen as well as international observers". ENDS IRAN TEACHERS STRIKE 6304


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