Hashem Khastar, born June 2, 1953 is an Iranian retired teacher at the Agriculture Technical High School in Mashhad, northeastern Iran. He is also an agricultural engineer and the head of the Mashhad Teachers Union.
Mr. Khastar has had and still has a remarkable influence on the issues of teachers’ rights in Iran. This became increasingly clear during the nationwide strikes of teachers in Iran, in 2018. Teachers across Iran were organized in peaceful walkouts and sit-ins to protest against their insufficient salaries and the continued arrest of teacher’s rights activists.
Teachers’ salaries amount to between 4,000,000-13,000,000 rials, equivalent to a minimum salary of around 90 euros (100 dollars), according to official government news agencies. Iranians are struggling to make ends meet in the midst of inflation and rising prices. During these troubled times teachers and labor activists organized peaceful protests, exercising their freedom of speech and demanding their human rights in order to uphold their livelihoods through fair wages.
Realizing the forthcoming danger, the Iranian authorities swiftly and efficiently crackdown on the voices of freedom, the backbone of the country, the source of education, and future of the young generation.
Mr. Khastar has been detained several times for defending teachers’ rights, including serving a term from 2009-2011 in Mashad prison, Vakilabad. His public comments and speeches have primarily been focused on teachers’ rights but Mr. Khastar has also been open about his general ideas on freedom and human rights. In a commentary published in 2018 he publicly criticized the Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei addressing him as a “dictator”.
In October 2018, Mr. Khastar was abducted by plainclothesmen. His wife received a phone call from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) several days later informing her that her husband had been taken to Mashhad’s psychiatric clinic to treat his mental illness. His wife found this information quite disturbing as her husband was in perfect physical and mental health before his detention. She was not allowed to see her husband in the psychiatric clinic. No comments or news were reported about Mr. Khastars case in the state media.
Several teachers and labor activists are still behind bars; detained for a “variety of security crimes against the nation”. Despite these circumstances some people still have the strength to speak out clearly against injustice.
“We don’t have guns. Our guns are our pens and our words and our gatherings and our sit-ins. The guns are in the hands of those who protect lawless, tyrannical, cruel rulers instead of defending the rule of law. They defend those who steal millions and arrest petty thieves and cut off their hands.“- Mr. Khastar.
Author: Susanne Jameson