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Why Iranian teachers are protesting

Iranian teachers are raising their voices to demand better conditions both for themselves and their students, and the struggle is moving forward with both protests and engagement with the authorities.

The labor struggles of teachers in Iran have expanded simultaneously with the establishment of a modern educational system in the country. The first union action of teachers took place almost a century ago, in 1922, over demands such as wage raises, receiving back pay, improving the quality and quantity of educational spaces and providing free and high-quality education to disadvantaged students. Another notable episode of teacher activism occurred in 1961, when one teacher was killed during a union strike that led to the collapse of the government. Ultimately, the leader of the teachers ended up becoming the minister of education, followed by the doubling of teacher pay and the improvement of educational circumstances — at least for a short period.

After the 1979 Islamic Revolution, a large number of teachers found their way into the newly established government and occupied various positions. But as a consequence of eight years of war with Iraq (1980-88) and power struggles within the government, no prospects for pursuing union demands were foreseeable. By the end of the war and with the reconstruction efforts under President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, economic reforms led to a high point for capitalist arrangements, coinciding with the deterioration of circumstances for middle-class communities — including teachers. A new wave of teacher protests started in 2001 and have recurred continuously.

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