Illustration photo – Protests in Tehran, Iran over the death of a woman in police custody, September 21, 2022.
Tehran – At least five Iranian provinces were suspected of Dozens of schoolgirls were hospitalized today due to poisoning, local media reports. Concerned parents of female students later protested in the metropolis of Tehran and other cities. In the past three months, hundreds of schoolgirls in the country have had sudden respiratory problems and some had to be hospitalized, AFP reported.
Most of the cases were recorded in the city of Kom, which is an important place of Shiite Islam. Iranian officials believe the girls may have been poisoned and attribute it to Iran's enemies.
In the provinces of Hamadan, Zanjan, West Azerbaijan, Fars and Alborz, dozens of girls were hospitalized today with respiratory difficulties, dizziness and headaches, according to Iran's Tasnim and Mehr agencies. According to the media, their state of health is not serious. The Reuters agency reported in the evening that nausea had affected female students at 30 schools in ten of the 31 provinces. Videos posted on social media showed parents gathering outside schools to take their children home. Other footage shows ambulances taking children to hospitals.
Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli said investigators found suspicious samples that are being examined to determine the cause of the female students' illness. According to him, the results will be published soon, the IRNA agency reported.
Since last November, there have been hundreds of cases of gas poisoning of schoolgirls in Iran. According to the BBC, many consider these cases to be a deliberate attack aimed at forcing the closure of girls' schools. The incidents in Iran have mobilized parents who are afraid to send their daughters to school. According to a video verified by Reuters, today's protest rally of parents in front of the Ministry of Education building in western Tehran turned into an anti-government demonstration. According to the agency, protests also took place in two other places in Tehran and in the cities of Rasht and Isfahan.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Friday called on the interior and intelligence ministries to “thwart the enemy's plot to instill fear and despair among the population.” However, he did not identify the mentioned enemy in more detail.
At the same time, the Iranian authorities are criticizing Friday's appeal by German diplomacy, which called for clarification of all cases of poisoning. They see it as meddling in the country's affairs. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also called for a transparent investigation and publication of the results. The Iranian government has announced that it will investigate the poisoning cases, but no arrests have been made so far.
An Iranian health ministry official said last week that “some people wanted all schools to be closed, especially girls' schools”. However, he later said that his statements were misunderstood.
Since last September, Iran's religious establishment has been called into question in protests that erupted after the death of a 22-year-old woman of Kurdish origin, Mahsa Aminiya. She died when she was detained by morality police for wearing a hijab – the headscarf that a Muslim woman is supposed to cover her hair and cleavage and that women in Iran have been required to wear in public since the 1979 Islamic revolution – was too loose.
< p>Some Iranians speculate whether some of the poisonings are retaliation for the demonstrations. During them, social networks were flooded with videos of schoolgirls taking off their Muslim headscarves. Others believe the poisonings are the work of hardliners who want to emulate the Taliban in Afghanistan and the militant Islamist group Boko Haram in Nigeria by terrorizing parents into stopping sending their daughters to school.