Tehran Teachers' Trade Association board member Esmail Abd
Tehran Teachers' Trade Association board member Esmail Abd

An international human rights group is urging people to write to Iran's government to ask it to free a jailed Iranian teachers' rights advocate who has been on a hunger strike for three weeks.

London-based Amnesty International made the appeal in a Tuesday tweet linking to an online petition for the release of Esmail Abdi, a Tehran-based Iranian mathematics teacher and trade unionist. He has been serving a six-year prison sentence since November 2016 on charges of spreading propaganda and committing national security crimes. 

In a Monday tweet, Amnesty said Abdi has been on a hunger strike since April 24. It had reported the start of his hunger strike on April 25, saying it learned of the protest from his wife.

Amnesty has described Abdi, a board member of the Tehran Teachers' Trade Association, as a prisoner of conscience. It said he began his hunger strike to protest Iran's suppression of trade unions and harsh conditions of his detention at Tehran's Evin prison.

Iranian authorities first arrested Abdi in June 2015 as he was planning to attend an overseas education conference to promote his campaign for quality education in Iran. They released him on bail in May 2016 after he went on a two-week hunger strike. But an appeals court upheld a six-year prison sentence against him in October of that year, and authorities jailed him again the following month.

Amnesty said forming trade unions and engaging in collective bargaining and strikes are universal human rights.

Iran's security forces have frequently detained Iranians engaging in such activities as part of a crackdown on anti-government protests that have persisted across the country since December.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Persian service.