Officials are investigating numerous instances in Iran where girls have been hospitalized with breathing problems and other symptoms after being possibly poisoned while attending school.
The incidents began at the end of November in the city of Qom when 18 female high school students were hospitalized, and they have continued for months throughout the country.
The attacks have not resulted in any deaths, according to local media sources, but it is estimated that up to 900 students have been attacked since November, the vast majority being girls.
In another incident from Qom in February, more than 100 students were hospitalized from 13 schools.
Some suspect that the poisonings are intentional and meant to punish girls over recent protests against the government enforcing the use of religious head coverings in public.
“There’s no coincidence that it would suddenly happen at this moment and the government knows that the protests are not dead,” said Jamsin Ramsey, the deputy director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran.
Initially, some officials tried to downplay the incidents and blamed stress and television propaganda.
“Over 99% of this is caused by stress, rumor and psychological war started particularly by hostile TV channels, to create a troubled and stressful situation for students and their parents,” said deputy interior minister Majid Mirahmadi. “Their goal was to force schools to close.”
On Wednesday, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi called on the Interior Ministry to investigate the incidents and report their findings to the public.
Some Iranians are reporting that girls affected by the poisonings are experiencing long-lasting symptoms.
“One of my daughters was poisoned in school last week,” said a mother in Qom to CNN. “Now she has trouble with her right foot and has difficulty walking.”
United States Department of State spokesperson Ned Price called on Iranian officials to thoroughly investigate the incidents.
“We’ve seen these reports, these are very disturbing, these are very concerning reports,” said Price. “To poison girls who are simply trying to learn is simply an abhorrent act.”
Here’s a news report about the schoolgirl poisonings:
Iran: President orders probe of poisoning at girls’ schoolswww.youtube.com
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