Suspected schoolgirl poisoning attacks shock Iran | News, sports, jobs

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Over the past three months, hundreds of young girls attending various schools in Iran have overcome what are believed to be noxious fumes seeping into their classrooms, with some ending up on hospital beds.

Officials in Iran’s theocracy initially dismissed the incidents, but now describe them as deliberate attacks involving some 30 schools identified in local media reports, with some speculating that they could be aimed at trying to close schools for girls in the country of over 80. million people.

The reported attacks come at a sensitive time for Iran, which has already faced months of protests following the death in September of Mahsa Amini following her arrest by the country’s morality police.

Authorities did not name the suspects, but the attacks raised fears that other girls were apparently being poisoned simply for their pursuit of education – something that has not been challenged before in the more than 40 years since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran has also called itself the Taliban In neighboring Afghanistan, girls and women are back in school.

The first cases appeared in late November in Qom, about 125 kilometers (80 miles) southwest of the Iranian capital, Tehran. There, in the heart of an area of ​​Shiite clerics and pilgrims, students at the Noor Yazdanshahr Institute fell ill in November. Then they got sick again in December.

Other cases followed, as the children complained of headaches, heart palpitations, and a feeling of lethargy or inability to move. Some described the smell of tangerines, chlorine, or cleaning agents.

At first, the authorities did not link the cases. It’s winter in Iran, with temperatures often dropping below zero at night. Many of the schools are heated by natural gas, leading to speculation that it may be carbon monoxide poisoning affecting the girls. The country’s education minister initially denied the reports as being “Rumors”.

But the schools affected initially taught only young women, raising suspicions that it was no accident. At least one case followed in Tehran, with another in Qom and Borujerd. At least one school for boys was also targeted.

Slowly, officials began to take the allegations seriously. Iran’s public prosecutor ordered an investigation, saying “There are possibilities for deliberate criminal acts.” Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence reportedly investigated as well.

On Sunday, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency published multiple accounts by officials acknowledging the scope of the crisis.

“After several cases of poisoning of students in Qom schools, it turned out that some people wanted to close all schools, especially girls’ schools,” IRNA quoted Deputy Health Minister Younes Panahi as saying.

Health Ministry spokesman Pedram Pacain said the poisoning did not come from a virus or microbe. No more details.

Alireza Manadi, a member of the National Parliament and a member of the Education Committee, described the poisonings as “deliberate”.

the “The existence of Satan’s will to prevent girls from education is a grave danger and is considered very bad news.” He said, according to the Iranian news agency (IRNA). We must try to find the roots. Who is this.

Already, parents have been pulling their students out of classrooms, in effect leading to the closure of some schools in Qom in recent weeks, according to a report by a Tehran-based reformist news website. On Tuesday, another suspected attack took place targeting a girls’ school in Pardis, on the eastern outskirts of Tehran.

The poisonings come as obtaining verifiable information from Iran remains difficult given the crackdown on all dissent stemming from the protests and the government-imposed internet slowdown. Authorities have arrested at least 95 journalists since the protests began, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Overall, the security forces’ crackdown has left at least 530 people dead and 19,700 arrested, according to human rights activists in Iran.

Attacks on women have happened in the past in Iran, the most recent being a wave of acid attacks in 2014 around Isfahan, at which time militants are believed to have targeted women because of the way they dress. But even in the chaos surrounding the Islamic Revolution, no one targeted schoolgirls for attending classes.

Jamila Kadiyor, a prominent reformist former legislator and journalist, wrote in Tehran’s Etela’at newspaper that as many as 400 students fell ill in cases of poisoning.

I warned “subversive opposition” groups could be behind the attacks. However, it also raised the possibility “homegrown extremists” from “It aims to replace the Islamic Republic with a caliphate or an Islamic emirate along the lines of the Taliban.”

It cited a supposed statement from a group calling itself “Fdayeen Wilayat”, in which it said: Studying girls is forbidden. threatened b “Spreading the poisoning of girls all over Iran” If girls’ schools remain open.

Iranian officials have not recognized any group called Fdayeen Velayat, which roughly translates into English as “Loves of the state.” However, Kadivar’s mention of the threat in print comes because he remains influential in Iranian politics and has ties to the theocratic ruling class. The head of Etilat newspaper is also appointed by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Prominent reformist politician Azar al-Mansoori also linked the suspected poisoning attacks to militant groups, pointing to the acid attacks in Isfahan.

“We said the acid attacks were organized. I said: You disturb public opinion! “ Mansouri books online. “Had the elements of the attacks been identified and punished at that time, a group of reactionaries today would not have swept away our innocent girls in the schools.”

Activists are also concerned that this could be a disturbing new trend in the country.

“This is a very fundamentalist thinking that appears in society,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran. “We have no idea how widespread this group was, but the fact that they were able to carry it out with such impunity is deeply troubling.”

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