Iran protests turn violent as teachers go on strike for better wages

Protests follow attacks on teachers by police and arrests of those leading industrial action

A teacher holds up a sign that reads: 'I am a teacher, I have come to teach my students that rights are worth fighting for'.

Teachers across Iran went on strike, seeking higher wages, better working conditions, an end to the discrimination of minorities, and the release of their activist colleagues.

The protests turned violent on Sunday after police attacked and arrested a number of the teachers and activists leaders.

The Coordinating Council of Iranian Cultural Associations, the union organising the protests, announced that Rasoul Badaghi, a teacher union activist, was arrested at his home.

Footage from social media showed teachers in Tehran standing before parliament chanting “Shameless” at the police for their brutality against their own people.

Other social media videos from major cities like Shiraz showed teachers saying, “teachers stand up, end discrimination”.

Teachers' wages in Iran have long been a point of contention, with protests taking place on and off since at least 2012.

Back in 2018, IRNA, Iran's semi-official news agency, reported that teachers' salaries were between 4 million and 13 million rials, which would put the minimum salary at around $100 a month, according to the unofficial exchange rate.

In 2012, the Rouhani government passed new laws for teacher salaries.

It passed a bill - the 80 per cent ranking plan - to ensure teachers would get at least 80 per cent of the wages that faculty members get, equalising salaries.

This plan was never properly enacted.

Three years later, teacher salaries were meant to be increased by between 20 per cent and 27 per cent.

However, the pressures of US sanctions as well as long-term government mismanagement and Covid-19 led to a skyrocketing inflation rate.

Since then, not only have salaries not kept up but many teachers have not been paid in months.

Meanwhile, according to Iran's statistics agency, the cost of living in Iran has increased by 30 per cent, meaning most teachers are struggling to make ends meet and are living below the poverty line.

A month ago, the Iranian parliament failed to vote on a bill that would adjust the salaries of teachers. Instead, the bill was sent back to the education commission to be revised.

According to Alireza Sefidan a member of Iran's education commission, the bill would rank teachers' salaries based on education level and quality of work. The unpassed bill would allot teachers an extra 30 million rials per month and teachers with a master’s degree an additional 70 million rials.

The new round of teacher strikes comes just a few weeks after protests across Iran over dire water shortages.

Iran's relatively new hardline government is thus far facing a number of domestic hurdles largely caused by its deteriorating economic situation.

The government is also trying to come to a deal with the US and the EU to lift sanctions and alleviate some of the country's economic problems.

Updated: December 14th 2021, 7:05 AM