“When the smell spread, everyone immediately understood what it was about and ran out of the classroom.” The dramatic scene that an eighth grader of the Iranian newspaper Shargh describes one of the recent cases of mysterious poisoning in Iranian schools.
Hundreds of schoolgirls in dozens of locations have now been affected, but there is still no official explanation for the attacks. Among other things, those affected tell of hissing noises in the classrooms and the smell of sulfur. Iranian doctors therefore bet on poison gases.
Many schoolgirls are also involved in the protests against the regime
The first cases were already reported at the end of November. A few girls’ schools in the Shiite stronghold of Qom were initially affected, but in the past few days more and more cases have become known in other parts of the country, now also in Tehran. Videos of the newspaper Shargh showed ambulances and fire engines in front of a school in the east of the metropolis. Numerous photos and videos of girls who are in the hospital are circulating on social media. Some said they were nauseous, others complained of headaches and tachycardia.
Politicians in Iran reacted hesitantly at the beginning of the incidents, then MPs announced that the attacks were targeted. It has become known from the authorities that extremist religious groups are suspected of being responsible for refusing girls’ schooling. Many schoolgirls have also taken part in the massive protests that have been directed against the Iranian regime for months and against human rights abuses, especially of women and girls.
The attacks have now prompted many parents across the country to withdraw their children from schools, fearing for their safety. Internationally, the incidents trigger massive criticism. The reports of the poisoning are “deeply disturbing” and the world needs to know the causes, said US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby in Washington.
Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock made a similar statement. “The reports of poisoned schoolgirls in Iran are shocking,” said the Green politician on Twitter. “Girls must be able to go to school without fear – whether in Tehran or Ardabil,” she wrote. “That is nothing less than your human right. All cases must be completely cleared up.”
A spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said the allegations were worrying that girls were being deliberately assaulted in mysterious circumstances. The results of a state investigation would have to be published and the perpetrators brought to justice.
Iran’s president blames foreign countries
The Deputy Governor of the Tehran suburb of Pardis, Resa Karimi Saleh, told the Tasnim news agency that a tanker truck was seen next to a school, which was probably connected to the poisoning. The same tanker was also in Kom and Borudsched in the western province of Lorestan. There, too, schoolgirls had suffered poisoning. “Security guards at a parking lot where the fuel tanker was parked also suffered poisoning,” Saleh said, referring to Pardis. He did not give any further details.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Ebrahim Raissi is trying to blame foreign actors. The poisonings are an attempt to spread chaos in the country, Raissi claimed on Friday. “The enemy is trying to scare and unsettle parents and students,” he said in a speech. Raissi left open who he thinks these enemies are. However, the USA and Israel are regularly referred to as such.