Iranian authorities have acknowledged that they are looking into allegations that a number of schoolgirls have been poisoned as a form of “revenge” for their involvement in protests against the mandatory hijab.
Speaking to reporters, Deputy Education Minister Younes Panahi stated that the individuals responsible for the poisoning were seeking to deter learners and close all schools, particularly girls’ schools.
Panahi also confirmed that the chemical compounds used were not weapons of war, and that the majority of the chemical agents used were treatable.
Dr Homayoun Sameyah Najafabadi, a member of the parliament’s health commission, agreed that the poisoning was deliberate, stating that it had taken place in cities including Borujerd and Qom.
A doctor who specialises in treating victims of poisoning suggested that the most probable cause of the attack was a weak organophosphate agent, a substance that they had never previously encountered outside of agricultural pesticides. The doctor went on to speculate that the poisoning was intended to intimidate protesters by extremist groups inside and outside of Iran, with the ultimate goal of seeking revenge against the schoolgirls who had been at the forefront of the recent protests.
Reports suggest that the attacks have resulted in many girls staying away from school. Last week, several schools were closed due to the ongoing investigation into the matter.
Iranian human rights activist Masih Alinejad based in New York told the Guardian:
“In my opinion, this chemical attack is revenge by the Islamic Republic against the brave women who [rejected] the mandatory hijab and shook the ‘Berlin Wall’ of [Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei.”
“As the Islamic State Iranian regime hates girls and women, I call on women across the globe – especially schoolgirls – to be the voice of Iranian students and call on the leaders of democratic countries to condemn this series of poisonings and isolate Khamenei’s regime,” she said.
Masih has dubbed the attack as “biological terrorism” and has called for leaders of democratic countries and external organizations to investigate the matter further.
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