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Strikes hit back against repression in Iran

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Striking teachers and oil workers have continued protests against Iran’s repressive regime, reports Nick Clark 
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Teachers in Iran on strike in December, last year

Tens of thousands of teachers in Iran on strike in December, last year (Picture: @ettehad.azad/Instagram)

Iranian teachers struck for two days this week against the state’s lethal crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Teachers at schools across the Kurdish province in Iran and beyond staged sit-ins, saying that they would show up at school but not attend classes. The action was in direct response to reports of state forces killing protesting students.

The strike—on Sunday and Monday of this week—was the latest sign of workers’ action in an anti-government movement that’s lasted more than a month. It comes after contract workers at oil refineries in the south of Iran also struck against the government.

Action appears to continue after workers at the Abadan oil refinery issued a statement on Thursday of last week calling for a strike on Saturday. And there have been reports of strikes by other groups of workers, including tanker drivers, steel workers and tyre makers.

They are elements of a largely protest-based mass movement. What began as demonstrations against the compulsory wearing of headscarves quickly became a ­movement against authoritarian rule.

Despite fierce repression—which has killed, injured or imprisoned hundreds of people, including dozens of school children—­protesters are still taking to the streets. Many of them are based in city neighbourhoods or university campuses and actions are led ­predominantly by young people.

There were protests in at least 30 cities and more than twenty universities across Iran on Saturday. Many of them face off against tear gas and bullets, and there are nightly ­running battles with state forces.

Footage appeared to show large protests in the city of Dezful on Saturday night, which reportedly continued despite the sounds of gunshots. And protesters in the cities of Mahabad and Naiser are said to have barricaded the roads with burning tyres. Protests have extended to challenge and break sexist rules in universities ­separating men and women students. At Sharif University in the ­capital Tehran, students defied rules by eating together in the canteen.

Despite the movement’s ­resilience, Iran’s government has so far shown little sign of conceding its demands. Instead, it is trying to crush the movement with brute force. Hundreds of protesters, activists and strikers have been arrested in recent weeks, many imprisoned in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

Relatives of political prisoners in Evin protested outside the jail on Sunday to demand information about their welfare. Many prisoners’ families still don’t know the fate of their relatives, after a large fire broke out and gunshots were heard from inside earlier this month.

On Friday senior Iranian cleric and member of Iran’s Guardian Council—which oversees the ­government—Ahmad Khatami called for judges to come down “hard” on those arrested. Judges handed heavy prison sentences to several arrested trade unionists the next day.

Yet despite the crackdown, there are still dozens of protests each day and night. If workers’ action spreads, it could help the ­movement to ­withstand the ­crackdown—and tip the balance against the government.

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