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A spate of suspected poison attacks on schoolgirls sparks protests in Iran


Concerned parents protested in Iran’s capital Tehran and other cities on Saturday against a wave of suspected poison attacks that have hit schoolgirls in dozens of schools, according to Iranian news agencies and social media videos. social.

The previously unexplained illnesses have affected hundreds of schoolgirls in recent months. Iranian officials believe the girls may have been poisoned and blamed enemies of Tehran.

The country’s health minister said the girls had suffered attacks with “sweet poison” and some politicians suggested the girls could have been targeted by hardline Islamist groups opposed to girls’ education.

Iran’s interior minister said on Saturday that investigators had found “suspicious samples” that were under investigation.

“During field studies, suspicious samples were found, which are being investigated…to identify the causes of the students’ illnesses, and the results will be released as soon as possible,” the minister said. Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli in a statement. by the official IRNA news agency.

The disease affected more than 30 schools in at least 10 of Iran’s 31 provinces on Saturday. Videos posted on social media showed parents gathered at schools to bring their children home and some students taken to hospital by ambulance or bus.

A woman from the city of Qom previously told CNN that her two daughters, who attend different schools, were poisoned. A girl suffered significant health problems after being poisoned: nausea, shortness of breath and numbness in her left leg and right hand, as well as difficulty walking.

A rally of parents outside an Education Ministry building in western Tehran on Saturday to protest against the diseases turned into an anti-government demonstration, according to video verified by Reuters.

“Basij, Guards, you are our Daesh,” protesters chanted, comparing the Revolutionary Guards and other security forces to the Islamic State group.

Similar protests took place in two other districts of Tehran and other cities, including Isfahan and Rasht, according to unverified videos.

The outbreak of schoolgirl illness comes at a critical time for Iran’s clerical leaders, who have faced months of anti-government protests sparked by the death of a young Iranian girl in the custody of morality police who enforce codes strict clothing.

In recent days, social media posts have shown photos and videos of girls who have fallen ill, feeling nauseous or suffering from heart palpitations. Others complained of headaches. Reuters could not verify the publications.

The United Nations human rights office in Geneva on Friday called for a transparent investigation into the alleged attacks and countries including Germany and the United States expressed concern.

Experts spoke about the difficulties of investigating the situation in Iran and told CNN the incidents were “remarkably similar” to dozens of incidents in schools in Afghanistan since 2009. “In a few of these incidents, the pesticides were strongly suspected, but most of the illnesses remain unexplained,” said Dan Kaszeta, a London-based defense specialist from the Royal United Services Institute.

Iran has dismissed what it sees as foreign interference and “hasty reactions” and said on Friday it was investigating the causes of the incidents.

“It is one of the Iranian government’s immediate priorities to address this issue as quickly as possible and to provide documented information to resolve the families’ concerns and hold perpetrators and causes accountable,” the spokesperson said. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Kanaani, to official media.

Schoolgirls actively participated in anti-government protests that began in September. They removed their compulsory headscarves in classrooms, tore up photos of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and called for his death.

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