Since November, hundreds of Iranian college students, the bulk being women, have been attacked with poisonous gasoline in faculties in cities like Qom and Tehran, with no less than one woman allegedly having died because of this. Activists say the toxic assaults have been intentionally carried out by hardline spiritual teams opposed to women’ training in an try to pressure faculties to close.
BBC Analysis means that as of Sunday, no less than 830 college students had been victims of the toxic assaults, whereas a Member of Parliament in Qom put the determine at 1,200 in Qom and Borujerd alone. College students in no less than 26 faculties throughout 5 cities have grow to be targets, in line with native media and activists.
The assaults comply with months-long mass protests in opposition to the clerical Iranian regime, led by Iranian girls and women, that erupted after the loss of life of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died within the custody of the morality police over “improper hijab.”
The primary assault befell within the spiritual metropolis of Qom on November 30, with 18 college students from the Nour Technical Faculty taken to hospital. Most of the poisoned have suffered respiratory issues, nausea, dizziness, and fatigue, with social media posts displaying some women being hospitalized.
The Heart for Human Rights in Iran has additionally alleged that no less than one woman, 11-year-old Fatemeh Rezaei, died because of the assaults. Iranian journalist and youngsters’s rights activist Hedie Kimiaee tweeted on Feb. 27 that Rezaei had died of gasoline poisoning at a faculty in Qom and that the Iranian authorities had been attempting to suppress details about the case.
Learn Extra: A whole lot of Schoolgirls in Iran Have Been Focused by Poison Assaults. Right here’s What to Know
“Although this pupil had no prior sickness, the authorities try to put in writing a false medical report saying she had a protracted historical past of sickness,” Kimiaee wrote. “Qom’s prosecutor has additionally warned the household to not discuss to the media [and told them to] bury Fatemeh with out discover.”
Iranian authorities staunchly denied reviews that Rezaei’s loss of life was linked to the poisonings, in line with the Washington, D.C.-based Iran Worldwide information channel.
A demonstrator makes the victory signal throughout a protest for Mahsa Amini, a lady who died after being arrested by the Islamic republic’s “morality police”, in Tehran on September 19, 2022.
Regardless of the outrage from Iranian residents, authorities have to this point responded with “contradictory explanations and appeared to downplay their seriousness,” Human Rights Watch said.
Earlier this week, at a cupboard assembly within the capital of Tehran, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi instructed the Inside Minister Ahmad Vahidi to seek out the reason for the mysterious poisoning “as shortly as doable.” He urged the Ministries of Well being and Info to supply help in investigating the matter. Nonetheless, he attributed the signs to emphasize and anxiousness over exams and accused worldwide media shops of “taking benefit” of the state of affairs to trigger public alarm.
At a information convention on Sunday, Deputy Well being Minister Younes Panahi additionally acknowledged that the assaults might have been meant to forestall women from going to highschool, in line with Iranian state broadcaster IRIB. “What is evident is that each in Qom and Borujerd, it’s a deliberate concern,” he mentioned. He continued, “some folks needed all faculties to be closed, particularly women’ faculties.” Nonetheless, Panahi later mentioned his assertion had been misunderstood.
The assaults have precipitated many panic-stricken college students to remain house. In keeping with native reviews, fearful dad and mom have begun pulling their kids out of sophistication as a precautionary measure, whereas many are gathering outdoors faculties to protest. In keeping with a BBC report, in a single viral video, a father is seen shouting outdoors the Qom governor’s workplace, “You’re obliged to make sure my kids’s security! I’ve two daughters and all I can do shouldn’t be allow them to go to highschool.” In one other video, frightened and indignant dad and mom are seen demanding motion in entrance of Yarjani Main Faculty in Narmak.
On March 1, the Iranian Lecturers’ Commerce Affiliation issued a press release calling on Iran’s Supreme Chief and senior officers to sentence the assaults and defend college students. “It’s needed for the accountable establishments to right away implement a number of measures with out losing extra time,” it mentioned. It additional requested the judicial authorities and the training minister to elucidate how they’d be investigating the assaults.
“We want the worldwide group to sentence this organic assault instantly and take robust motion,” Masih Alinejad, a notable Iranian journalist and activist, posted on Twitter.
Extra Should-Reads From TIME