In recent months, dozens of Iranian students have suffered from a series of poisonings in various schools across the country. The situation has raised grave concern and alarm among parents, students, and the wider public, with government authorities demanding action and clarity.
Today, this already alarming situation deteriorated even further, with more than 400 pupils at girls’ schools in the country suffering from toxic poisoning in one day alone.
Over the past 100 days, approximately 2,200 girls at schools across the country have suffered from chemical poisoning, with doctors yet to isolate a source, leading many to believe that the regime may be involved, in an effort to terrorise and silence schoolgirls, who’ve led anti-regime protests which have gained international support, or possibly to divert attention from the protests. In the past three months, 400 girls in Borujerd, 800 in Qom, and 400 more in Ardabil were hospitalised after suffering the effects of chemical poisoning.
In the predominantly Arab region of Ahwaz, the vice-chancellor of the Ahwaz University of Medical Sciences confirmed on Sunday that the number of Ahwazi schoolgirls diagnosed with chemical poisoning in the region has risen to 700, with 500 of these children treated and discharged from hospital while the remaining 200 are still in hospital under observation.
Further exacerbating the already tense situation, the regime has reacted to parents’ anger and fear by brutalising parents, with the MP for the city of Rasht revealing during a budget review meeting in parliament on Sunday that “tear gas was fired” at worried parents who gathered outside the Ministry of Education headquarters in the city to demand action to protect their children.
Another MP at the same parliamentary meeting, Ghani Nazari, who represents the Khalkhal district, said that Khalkhal had also experienced cases of poisoning among schoolgirls, saying that the public is upset and scared, and expressing anger at the authorities’ failure to take action to protect vulnerable children. A number of other MPs also protested, with the speaker of the Parliament, Mohammad Baqir Qalibaf, warning Nazari to restrict himself to expressing his opinion about the budget rather than addressing other issues.
Nazari responded angrily to the speaker’s intervention, saying, “Mr Qalibaf, in Khalkhal city, students have gone to the hospital due to poisoning – what do you expect me to talk about?!” My duty is to tell the authorities to follow up on the issue and to demand this action from the responsible authorities. Since this morning, people have been calling and asking me to follow up on the matter!”
The exact cause of the chemical poisonings remains unclear, but investigations by relevant authorities have found samples of suspected substances that are being analysed in reputable laboratories. Some reports suggest that the poisonings may be caused by toxic gases or chemicals, but no definitive evidence exists.
The poisonings have triggered widespread concern and outrage among parents and students across Iran. Parents have organised protests and demonstrations outside hospitals and government buildings, demanding urgent action to address the situation. The situation has also led to many parents keeping their children at home, fearing for their safety.
The Iranian government has promised to take swift action to address the poisonings. The Ministry of Interior has formed a task force to investigate the situation, and the Ministry of Health has sent medical teams to affected areas to provide treatment and support. The government has also promised to provide clear and transparent information to the public to alleviate concerns and maintain trust.
There is widespread agreement, even among regime loyalists, however, that the Iranian regime must be held accountable for its failure to prevent these poisonings from occurring since it is responsible for protecting the safety and well-being of its citizens, particularly schoolchildren. Furthermore, the lack of transparency and information regarding the cause of the poisonings is wholly unacceptable to the public, and the regime must be transparent in its investigations and provide the public with clear and accurate information.
The serial poisonings of Iranian students, particularly in all-girls schools, is a serious concern that requires urgent action from government authorities. The Iranian regime’s government must identify the cause of the poisonings and take measures to prevent further such incidents. The safety and well-being of Iranian students is paramount, and the government must take swift action to address this pressing issue. The public also deserves clear information and transparency on investigations into the situation to enable them to have any trust and confidence in the government’s response. Whatever people’s differences on any other issues, everyone is agreed that the regime must be held accountable for its abysmal failure to protect the safety of its citizens.
By Babek Chalabi
Babek Chalabi is a South Azerbaijani activist based in Washington DC. Chalabi is also the founder of ArazNews.org. Babek tweets under @BabekChelebi.