Wave of suspected poison attacks on schoolgirls sparks protests in Iran


Concerned parents protested in the Iranian capital Tehran and other cities on Saturday over a wave of suspected poison attacks that have affected schoolgirls in dozens of schools, according to Iranian news agencies and social media videos.

The hitherto unknown diseases have affected hundreds of schoolgirls in recent months. Iranian officials believe the girls may have been poisoned and have blamed enemies of Tehran.

The country’s health minister has said there have been “mild poisoning” attacks on girls, and some politicians have suggested girls may be targeted by radical Islamic groups opposed to girls’ education.

Iran’s interior minister said on Saturday that investigators had found “suspicious samples” that were being studied.

“In field studies, suspicious samples have been found, which are being tested … to identify the cause of the students’ illness, and the results will be published as soon as possible,” the minister, Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, said in a statement. . By the official news agency IRNA.

The disease affected more than 30 schools in at least 10 of Iran’s 31 provinces on Saturday. Videos posted on social media showed parents gathering at schools to take their children home and some students being taken to hospital by ambulance or buses.

A woman from the city of Qom previously told CNN that her two daughters, who attended different schools, had been poisoned. One girl suffered significant health problems after being poisoned: nausea, shortness of breath and numbness in her left leg and right hand as well as difficulty walking.

A gathering of parents outside an education ministry building in western Tehran turned into an anti-government demonstration on Saturday to protest the diseases, according to video verified by Reuters.

“Basij, Guards, you are our Daesh,” protesters chanted, comparing the Revolutionary Guards and other security forces to the Islamic State group.

According to the unverified video, similar protests were held in two other areas in Tehran and other cities, including Isfahan and Rasht.

The outbreak of the schoolgirl illness comes at a critical time for Iran’s clerical rulers, who have faced months of anti-government protests since the death of a young Iranian woman in the custody of morality police enforcing strict dress codes. have faced

Social media posts in recent days have shown photos and videos of girls who have become ill, feeling nauseous or suffering from heart palpitations. Others complained of headaches. Reuters could not verify the posts.

The UN human rights office in Geneva called for a transparent investigation into the suspected attacks on Friday, and countries including Germany and the US expressed concern.

Experts spoke of the difficulties in investigating the situation in Iran and told CNN that the incidents were similar to dozens of incidents at schools in Afghanistan since 2009. Illnesses are not explained, said Dan Caszetta, a London-based defense expert at the Royal United Services Institute.

Iran rejected what it views as foreign interference and a “hasty reaction” and said on Friday it was investigating the cause of the incidents.

“Progressing this issue as soon as possible and providing documented information to address the families’ concerns and hold the perpetrators and causes accountable is one of the immediate priorities of the Iranian government,” foreign ministry spokesman Nasir Kanani told state media. ”

Schoolgirls were active in the anti-government protests that began in September. They have removed their mandatory headscarves in classrooms, torn up portraits of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and called for his death.

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