The Iranian government said it had arrested over 100 people connected with the poisoning of school girls around the country. Iranian state television, the IRNA, said authorities have identified and arrested the men in Tehran and other parts of the country and are being investigated.
“Initial inquiries show that a number of these people, out of mischief or adventurism and with the aim of shutting down classrooms and influenced by the created psychological atmosphere, have taken measures such as using harmless and smelly substances,” a statement by the country’s Ministry of Interior reads.
Since November last year, Iran has reported suspected poisoning in several girls’ schools in the country, warranting the calls for a thorough investigation and prosecution of those indicted for the crime.
The first case of school poisoning was reported sometime in November last year in the city of Qom. Since then, other schools have been affected in different parts of Iran, including the capital Tehran. About 1,000 students were affected by the man-made disaster.
Iranian Health Minister Bahram Einollahi said the symptoms displayed by the students included nausea, muscle weakness, and tiredness. Footage shared on social media showed that students in various parts of the country had been affected. However, there has not been any reported death in connection with the poisonings.
Several schoolgirls, who were victims of the suspected attack, said they felt unwell after inhaling a substance at their school premises.
“My daughter and two of her friends say they heard something like an explosion and immediately afterwards an unpleasant smell – something like burned plastic filled the air,” one parent, whose daughter was affected, told the BBC. “They were asked to leave the class and go into the yard. Many of the students started collapsing in the yard. There are kids with asthma and heart problems in my daughter’s class.
While some officials had hinted at a possible Islamic extremist attack, others have assumed that the government was trying to suppress girls’ education after several schoolgirls joined in protesting against the death of Mahsa Amini. Amini died in the custody of Iran’s morality police after she was arrested for inappropriately wearing the hijab.
Last month, the words deputy minister of Health Younes Panahi, suggested that the attack on female students was deliberate and was an attempt to stop them from continuing their schooling.
“After the poisoning of several students in Qom … it became clear that some people wanted all schools, especially girls’ schools, to be closed,” Younes Panahi said before saying his comments were quoted out of context.
Most schools in Iran are gender-based. However, the recent wave of poisonous attacks was not reported in any boys’ school. Many have argued that it was enough reason to believe that the attacks were deliberate, but the motive of the attackers remains unknown, at least for now.