With the school year well underway in many parts of the world, the toll of official and unofficial violence and repression against teachers is mounting – with justice as elusive as ever.
In Iran, 14 teacher unionists were detained in early October as part of an intensified effort by authorities to silence public protest. Since last spring, according to reports, members of Iran’s Teachers’ Association, including the secretary general of the Teachers' Organisation of Iran, have been imprisoned for union activities.
In July, more than 200 teachers were detained after street demonstrations demanding release of their colleagues. Human Rights Watch has detailed background on events leading up to the latest crackdown in Tehran.
The chaos and brutality in battle-scarred Yemen has hit students and educators especially hard. UN sources have reported nearly 400 schools damaged – 95 of them destroyed – by airstrikes or shelling, and at least 3,600 schools have been closed, leaving 1.8 million children deprived of an education since fighting escalated last spring.
Activists are highlighting the case of school director Hilal Akrout, a member of the Education International-affiliated Yemen Teachers' Syndicate, who was arrested on 31 August at the Sabaa School in Sana’a Province. Akrout has been detained without charges since.
In Bahrain, ailing Mahdi Abu Dheeb, president of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association (BTA) union, is being refused medical treatment in prison. Education International has learned that the health of Abu Dheeb is deteriorating without medical care.
Sentenced by a military court in 2011 on unwarranted charges, Abu Dheeb has been denied medication for hypertension and diabetes and other treatments since March. He also sustained back injuries from torture inflicted during the 64 days he was held in solitary confinement after his arrest.
In response, Education International has called on its affiliates in 171 countries to join an Amnesty International appeal asking Bahraini authorities to give Abu Dheeb access to the care he needs and release him from prison.
Meanwhile, the repression of civil liberties and the criminalisation of teachers for exercising their legitimate human rights continue in Bahrain. Since it was dissolved by the Ministry of Social Development in 2011, the BTA has not been allowed to be re-established.
In Nigeria, educators used the annual World Teacher Day to remember the 600 killed and 19,000 displaced among their ranks as a result of extremist group Boko Haram’s attacks on schools, students and teachers.
Michael Olukoya, president of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), said that 308 teachers were killed in Borno State, the same area where more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in 2014. In addition to those killed, another 19,000 teachers have been displaced due to the ongoing violence of Boko Haram’s activities.
According to the International Business Times, Boko Haram has targeted public and private schools in northeast Nigeria for years, dousing the facilities with gasoline at night and setting them ablaze. The militants have also hurled home-made bombs at the minimal, concrete classrooms Nigeria offers its children.
These incidents are not isolated: around the world teachers and students are being targeted for simply being committed to education.