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Iran President Blames “Enemies” for School Poisonings

By Nigar Bayramli March 4, 2023

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Hundreds of schoolgirls have been poisoned across Iran in recent months. Some were hospitalized, and others are still experiencing symptoms. / West Observer

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has claimed that the series of suspicious poisonings that have occurred in multiple schools across the country are part of a larger scheme by enemies to cause disappointment among the population.

“Those who have targeted the mental security of the society under this pretext are not concerned about the health of the students and their families, but their goal is to create chaos in the country under any pretext,” President Raisi said at a meeting with Islamic clerics of Bushehr Province on March 3.

He added that “today, along with the progress of the country, hostilities have also increased, the latest example of which is the attempt to create an atmosphere of insecurity in schools and worry among families.”

Since November of last year, numerous schools in various Iranian cities, such as Tehran, Qom, and Ardabil, have been the targets of apparent toxic gas attacks that have affected more than 1,000 students, mostly females. As a result of these attacks, students from a total of 58 schools across 10 provinces have been hospitalized with respiratory symptoms.

While Iranian state-affiliated media outlets are alleging the involvement of foreign-based opposition groups in the toxic gas attacks on schools, some experts suggest that the attacks may be a form of “retribution” by hardline supporters of the Islamic regime. This speculation is fueled by the fact that schoolgirls, who were instrumental in the early stages of recent anti-establishment protests by removing their mandatory headscarves, have been predominantly affected by the attacks.

During a cabinet meeting on March 1, President Raisi instructed Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi to initiate a prompt investigation into the poisoning of schoolgirls in various cities, with the aim of alleviating the concerns of Iranian families. In addition, President Raisi also directed the Ministries of Health and Intelligence, as well as other relevant branches of the government, to collaborate with the Interior Ministry in this inquiry.

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, took to Twitter on March 3 to criticize the statements made by Western countries regarding the poisoning of Iranian students. He wrote that “the interventionist reaction of some Western officials to the suspected poisoning of dear Iranian female students is the continuation of the enemy’s hybrid warfare.”

Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Nasser Kanani said on the same day that “the hasty, bizarre and showy reaction of some foreign officials to the poisonings is part of their continued meddlesome and politically-motivated stance that they have adopted over the past year.”

The spokesperson for the US National Security Council, John Kirby, urged the Iranian government on March 2 to conduct a comprehensive and transparent investigation into the toxic gas attacks on schools. Kirby stated that the situation is “deeply concerning” and that the world needs to know.

“Certainly, the families of those little girls need to know,” he added.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock described the reports of schoolgirls being poisoned in Iran as “shocking,” saying that “girls must be able to go to school without fear — whether in Tehran or Ardabil. This is nothing less than their human right.”

Referring to Baerbock’s statement, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said that her concerns are “hypocritical and meddlesome.”

“We will not allow anyone to cause insecurity for Iranian girl students with political motivation,” Kanani wrote on Twitter on March 3.