Growing Concern After Arrests and Shutdown of Jordan Teachers Union
Thousands of Jordanian teachers gather outside government headquarters to push for a 50% salary increase in September 2019. Laith Joneidi / Anadolu Agency

Human Rights Watch has expressed growing concern after authorities raided the Jordan Teachers Syndicate headquarters in Amman last Saturday, arresting 13 of its leading members on charges of corruption and incitement.

Attorney General Hassan Abdallat ordered the Teachers’ Union closed for a two-year period following a series of recent disputes between the government and the Teachers’ Union. He also issued a gag order on all reporting of the situation across social media.

“Shuttering one of Jordan’s few independent labour unions following a protracted dispute with the government and on dubious legal grounds raises serious concerns about the government’s respect for the rule of law,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

“The lack of transparency and the ban on discussing this incident on social media only reinforces the conclusion that the authorities are violating citizens’ rights.”

Human Rights Watch reported that authorities raided 11 branches of the Teachers Union across the country. One witness in the Irbid office said:

I was there, along with four other employees and some syndicate members. [A policeman] wearing civilian clothing who didn’t identify himself said that they have a judicial order to close the branch. He was asking us to take our personal belongings and leave the place.  I asked him to see the judicial order. […] He didn’t have it.

The moves come days after a protest of the government’s decision to postpone an agreed salary increase for teachers. The 50% salary increase was settled last October following a month-long teachers strike, one of the longest public sector strikes in the country’s history.

However, in April 2020 the government decided to postpone the payment until the start of next year, citing financial difficulties due to coronavirus. The union rejected the decision by organizing a protest with acting head of the Union, Nasser Nawasrah, saying the salary increase “must be implemented completely.” Nawasreh was among the 13 members detained.

“The teachers union was threatening again to stage protests, sit-ins and strikes that harm the state’s essential services and their functioning,” said Amjad al-Adaileh, the Minister of State for Media Affairs during a press conference.

Murad Adailah, head of the largest opposition party said that such a crackdown will “only further aggravate political tensions by the government at a time people are choked under hard economic conditions.”

Education Minister Tayseer Al-Naimi stressed that the teachers’ salary increase was suspended until January 2021, the same for other government employees.