Schoolgirls poisoning: Iran arrests more than 100 people


According to the state news agency IRNA, Iran has arrested more than 100 people “in connection with” the alleged poisoning of hundreds of schoolgirls across the country.

Citing a statement from Iran’s Interior Ministry, IRNA said the individuals had been “identified, arrested and examined” in several cities, including the capital Tehran.

“Initial investigations show that a number of these individuals, out of mischief or adventurism and with the aim of closing classrooms and influenced by the psychological atmosphere created, have taken measures such as the use of harmless and smelly substances,” the statement said.

Iran has seen a spate of alleged poisonings in recent months, almost exclusively at girls’ schools.

While Iranian politicians have hinted the girls could be targeted by Islamist groups, activists believe the poisonings may be linked to the nationwide protests that erupted last September over Mahsa Ami’s death. Many schoolgirls have taken an active part in the protests, taking off their mandatory headscarves in classrooms, tearing up pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and calling for his death.

Doctors, parents and teachers have accused the Iranian government of trying to silence the victims.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had previously described the alleged poisoning as an “unforgivable crime” and called for “severe punishment” for those responsible.

Among those arrested, according to the ministry, were “individuals with hostile motives, trying to incite fear among people and students, closing schools and inciting pessimism towards” the Iranian government.

They would be “under investigation until the necessary assurances are obtained,” the statement said, adding that the number of poisoning cases at girls’ schools across the country had been falling “in recent days”.

The first suspected poisonings occurred in November at a high school in the city of Qom, where 18 schoolgirls were hospitalized, according to Iranian state media.

A mother of two daughters from Qom previously told CNN that both girls, who attended different schools, had suffered significant health problems after being poisoned.

One girl experienced nausea, shortness of breath and numbness in her left leg and right hand, while the other now had “difficulty walking,” she said.

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Concern grows in Iran after reports say hundreds of schoolgirls were poisoned

Another incident in the city occurred in February, when more than 100 students from 13 schools were hospitalized after what Iranian state news outlets described as “serial poisonings.”

Both the United States and the United Nations have called on the Iranian authorities to fully investigate the alleged poisoning and hold those responsible accountable.

The White House said Monday there needed to be a “credible, independent” investigation into schoolgirl poisoning in Iran and suggested it could fall under the purview of the United Nations to investigate the matter.

The Biden administration had previously pointed out that Iran was conducting its own investigations. But questioned by CNN’s Phil Mattingly on Monday, spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said the situation could fall under the mandate of the UN’s independent fact-finding mission to Iran.

“We are closely following this deeply worrying situation that we are seeing in Iran,” she said. “The continued poisoning of school girls across Iran is ruthless. There needs to be credible, independent investigation (and) accountability for those responsible.”

She said if the poisoning was related to the recent protests, it was “well within” the mandate of the UN fact-finding mission.

“The possibility that girls in Iran might be poisoned just for trying to get an education is shameful, it’s unacceptable,” she said.

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