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Presidents of provincial and territorial teachers' organizations from across Canada, meeting in Vancouver, are unanimously calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland to urge the Iranian government to immediately and unconditionally release hunger-striking teacher leader Esmail Abdi.

A leader of the Tehran Teacher Trade Association, Abdi was targeted by Iranian authorities for his union activism and campaign for free and accessible public education for all. Last October he was sentenced to six years in jail on false charges brought by Branch 36 of the Appeals Court of Tehran.

Abdi has been on hunger strike since April 30, 2017, to protest the continued, unlawful repression of teachers and human rights defenders and the lack of independence of the judiciary in Iran.

According to reports from Education International, Abdi has lost a significant amount of weight and is suffering from hypertension and dizziness. His health and safety are at risk and his life may be in danger. Reports indicate that Abdi was being kept in harsh detention conditions in the notorious Evin prison and has recently been transferred to a new prison ward where he is denied communication with his family and lawyer.

The teacher organization presidents who are meeting in Vancouver expressed their unanimous support for Education International in its demand that the Iranian government lift all sanctions against education unionists for their legitimate trade union activities, and that it respect fundamental human and trade union rights for all workers and public servants.

We urge our Canadian government to request the Iranian authorities to immediately drop the unfounded charges against Mr. Abdi and to take all necessary measures for his immediate and unconditional release.

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For more information, contact Rich Overgaard, BCTF media relations officer, at 604-871-1881 (office) or 604-340-1959 (cell).

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