Iran's intelligence minister Esmail Khatib. FILE PHOTO

Iran's intelligence minister, cleric Esmail Khatib

Intel Minister Accuses Iran Activists Of ‘Ties With Terrorist Groups’


The Iranian intelligence minister on Thursday accused detained members of a teachers’ union of “contact with terrorist groups” and “spies residing abroad.”

“There is reliable information that some members of the said illegal groups had connection with known terrorist groups and certain spies who reside abroad and have been identified,” Esmail Khatib told a national gathering of prosecutors in reference to the arrest of some members of the Teachers Association.

The association has organized regular nationwide protests and strikes for better wages and working conditions as well as freedom for their colleagues arrested during the past year. The association recently said in a statement that the teachers' movement would not be subdued by security and judicial crackdowns on union activists.

Last week Iran's Intelligence Ministry announced the detention of two European nationals who have now been identified as French citizens Cécile Kohler, the head of the biggest federations of teachers' unions in France, and her partner Jacques Paris. The couple travelled to Iran as tourists and were arrested a few days later on their way to the airport.

Kohler is the head of the National Federation of Education, Culture and Vocational Training (FNEC FP-FO), a trade union representing education and related staff in France. Her partner Paris is also a member of the same union.

Teachers gathered in Iran to demand higher wages and release of jailed colleagues. February 19, 2022

The French couple’s trip to Iran coincided with intensification of Iran’s crackdown on teachers’ protests and union activists over their latest round of widespread rallies which were held on May 1, the international Labor Day. The couple met with some members of the Coordination Council of Iranian Teachers’ Trade Unions (CCITTU) during their stay.

Iran's state television on Tuesday showed a 3-minute report on the recent arrest of the French couple, saying they were “spies” who "intended to foment unrest in Iran by organizing trade union protests".

Khatib said the two French nationals had come to Iran to create organizational connections between “illegal agitator groups (unions) … to fulfil the goals of [outlawed political] groups and [foreign] intelligence services under the guise of unions.”

In a statement Thursday, Defenders of Human Rights Center led by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi, condemned the French couple’s arrest and what it called Iran’s security forces “script” to suppress the teachers’ and workers’ protest movement by creating an atmosphere of fear. It underlined that contact with foreign nationals or labor unions is not a crime in any of the country’s current laws. “Depriving the nation from its fundamental freedoms with such unfounded and illegal accusations is clear proof of abuse of power,” the statement said.

Teachers’ Trade Association in a statement published Thursday said the CCITTU has been an official member of the FNEC FP-FO since it was formed and criticized the “script-writing” of security forces to use the meeting between the French teachers and their Iranian colleagues to crack down on their movement.

“The film [shown on the state television] intends to ascribe teachers’ protests to plots by western intelligence services to silence the justice-seeking voice of teachers,” the statement said while declaring that such scripts will only “result in the disgrace of those who write them.”

In the past few months people from different walks of life, including teachers, nurses, firefighters, and pensioners have held protestto demand better wages and pensions. On Monday bus drivers in the capital Tehran went on strike and Truck Owners and Drivers Union has also said they are planning a strike in the coming days.

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