Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

Iran Faces Growing Crisis as Hundreds of Schoolgirls Poisoned

Mon 13 Mar 2023 | 02:30 PM
Jalal Arani

Hundreds of schoolgirls in Iran have fallen ill in mysterious poisoning incidents in the past three months, causing widespread anger and confusion throughout the country. The poisonings began in Qom in late November, and have since spread to other cities, including Tehran, Borujerd, Sari, Ardabil, Torbat Jam, Quchan, and Kermanshah. Despite repeated reports of these incidents, the Iranian regime has continued to deceive the public about the crimes committed.

The most recent incident occurred in Khayyam High School in Pardis, Tehran Province. As some students were being transported to the hospital, others chanted “Death to Khamenei” and “We don’t want a child killer government.” In a country where the government heavily controls information coming from hospitals, it is difficult to accurately determine the number of affected students. However, resistance networks and interviews with medical workers estimate that the number is in the hundreds, as the incidents have occurred over several months, hitting some schools more than once.

Students have often reported strange odours prior to falling sick, saying they smell like rotten tangerines or a strong perfume. Some students have reported seeing strange objects being thrown into school yards before a poisoning. Iranian regime’s officials have acknowledged that nitrogen gas was detected in the poison used at some of the schools. to counter the growing public pressure demanding safety for their children, and in a bid to the Iranian president, Ebrahim Raisi, has ordered the interior ministry to follow up on poisoning cases, but nothing has been done and no arrests have been made.

The Iranian regime has tried to protect the main culprits by denying any involvement in the poisonings. However, after three months of total denial, the regime has finally admitted that the poisonings have been deliberate. Younes Panahi, the Deputy Minister of Health, told state-linked media that “some people” wish to stop girls from going to school. He did not elaborate. The state-run website, Tabnak, quoted Panahi as saying: “There were some who wanted all schools to be closed down, especially girls’ schools. So far, it has been established that the poisoning of the students in Qom schools was caused by chemical compounds accessible publicly.”

As confusion and a lack of clarity on the attacks persists, several officials have suggested that foreign “enemies” of the Islamic republic might have carried out the attacks to smear it. However, the families of the poisoned girls and protestors on the streets are beyond doubt that the state is responsible, pointing their finger to Khamenei, accusing him of trying to exact “revenge” on schoolgirls who have circulated images and videos of months of protests that erupted across Iran in September in the wake of the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of the morality police. The protestors believe that Khamenei is trying to discourage girls from joining anti-government demonstrations, as they have shown extreme courage in the past six months of ongoing protests in Iran, asking for their rights.

These repeated incidents orchestrated by the regime have prompted some parents to take their children out of school. Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, issued a statement in sympathy with the families of the poisoned girls, emphasizing the need for action and protest about the poisoning of girls and the state of their education security, as in the case of the compulsory hijab. She said, “For the past three months, innocent girls have been exposed to Khamenei’s revenge and his savage agents because of the uprising, which is reminiscent of the acid attacks on women that the regime initially denied.”

In light of the alarming number of poisonings of schoolgirls in Iran, urgent action is required. The Women's Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran has called on the United Nations to intervene, specifically the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, to investigate the matter. A visit by a United Nations delegation to Iran is essential to address the growing concerns and bring the perpetrators to justice. The international community must stand in solidarity with the families and victims of these heinous crimes and demand international accountability for the Iranian regime. It is imperative that the global community takes swift and decisive action to put an end to these egregious acts of violence and ensure the safety and well-being of Iranian citizens.

Jalal Arani