Hundreds of Iranian girls in
different schools have suffered “mild poisoning” over
recent months, the health minister has said, with some politicians
suggesting they could have been targeted by religious groups
opposed to girls’ education.
“Investigating where this mild poison comes from … and whether it is an intentional move are not within the scope of my ministry,” Health Minister Bahram Einollahi was quoted as saying by state media.
The poisoning incidents at more than 30 schools in at least four cities started in November in Iran’s city of Qom, prompting some parents to take their children out of school, state media reported.
Social media posts showed some hospitalised schoolgirls, who said they had felt nauseous and suffered heart palpitations.
His deputy, Younes Panahi, said on Sunday “it was found that some people wanted schools, especially girls’ schools, to be closed”, according to IRNA state news agency.
One boys’ school has been targeted in the city of Boroujerd, state media reported.
The attacks come at a critical time for Iran’s clerical
rulers, who faced months of anti-government protests sparked by
the death of a young Iranian woman in the custody of the
morality police who enforce strict dress codes.
‘The devil’s will’
Lawmaker Alireza Monadi said the existence of “the devil’s
will” to stop girls from going to school was a “serious threat”,
according to IRNA.
He did not elaborate, but suspicions have fallen on hardline
groups that operate as the self-declared guardians of their
interpretation of Islam.
In 2014, people took to the streets of the city of Isfahan
after a wave of acid attacks, which appeared to be aimed at
terrorising women who violated the country’s strict dress code.
“If operatives of the acid attacks had been identified and
punished then, today, a group of reactionaries would not have
ganged up on our innocent girls in the schools,” politician Azar Mansoori tweeted.
Several senior clerics, lawmakers and politicians have
criticised the government for failing to end the poisoning incidents and giving contradicting reasons for them, with some warning
that frustration among families could ignite further protests.
“Officials are giving contradictory statements… one says
it is intentional, another says it is security-linked and
another official blames it on schools’ heating systems,” state
media quoted senior cleric Mohammad Javad Tabatabai-Borujerdi as
“Such statements increase people’s mistrust (towards the
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