Dozens of Iranian schoolgirls treated in latest mystery poisoning

Hundreds of cases of shortness of breath among schoolgirls have been reported in the past three months, mainly in the holy city of Qom south of Tehran, with some requiring hospitalization.

A government official said Sunday the attacks were believed to have been a deliberate attempt to force girls’ schools to close.

“At noon today (Tuesday), several female students were poisoned at the Khayyam girls’ school in the city of Pardis, Tehran province,” Tasnim news agency reported.

So far, 35 students have been hospitalized, adding to hundreds of reported cases of poisoning since November in at least two other cities, including Qom.

The poisoning comes more than five months after protests spread across Iran following the death of 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini on September 16 after she was arrested for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code for women.

Tehran says hundreds of people have been killed and thousands arrested in connection with the protests, which authorities commonly refer to as “riots.”

Pupils at a girls’ school in Borujerd were hospitalized on Sunday after a poisoning incident, the fourth in the western city in the past week.

Parliament held a session on Tuesday to discuss the alleged attacks. Health Minister Bahram Eynollahi attended the meeting, the official IRNA news agency reported.

IRNA quoted spokesman Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf as saying that both Qom and Borujerd “were involved in student poisoning.”

The suspected poisoning would be investigated, the Iranian police chief told the Tasnim news agency on Tuesday.

“Our priority is to find the origin of this case and until then we will not judge whether it was intentional or not,” Ahmad-Reza Radan was quoted as saying.

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Nationwide outrage

“We have not yet arrested anyone in this case and are identifying possible suspects,” the police chief added.

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On Sunday, Deputy Health Minister Younes Panahi said some people had been poisoned at a girls’ school in Qom in a bid to end girls’ education.

“Following the poisoning of several students in Qom schools, it was found that some people wanted all schools, especially girls’ schools, to be closed,” IRNA quoted him as saying at the time.

Panahi didn’t elaborate.

Similar incidents since November have sparked outrage across the country.

Activists have likened those responsible for the school attacks to the Taliban in Afghanistan and Boko Haram in the Sahel, which oppose girls’ education.

On February 14, parents of sick students gathered outside Qom governorate to “demand an explanation” from the authorities, IRNA reported.

The following day, government spokesman Ali Bahadori Jahromi said the intelligence and education ministries were trying to find the cause of the poisoning.

Last week, Attorney General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri ordered a judicial inquiry into the incidents.

Qom lawmaker Ahmad Amiri Farahani condemned the attack on the schoolgirls as an “irrational act” and stressed that residents of the holy city “support the education of girls”.

On Tuesday, former reformist Vice-President Massoumeh Ebtekar expressed his regret at the “repeated crime of poisoning girls” and urged the authorities to “put an end once and for all to the misogynistic fanatics”.



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