Iranian girls have been poisoned in recent weeks in a bid to force them to stop attending school out of apparent ‘revenge’ for protests against the compulsory hijab, it has emerged. Since late November, hundreds of cases of respiratory poisoning have been reported among schoolgirls mainly in Qom, south of Tehran, with some needing hospital treatment.
On Sunday, Iran’s deputy health minister, Younes Panahi, implicitly confirmed the poisonings had been deliberate. So far, there have been no arrests. Speaking anonymously, a doctor who specialises in the treatment of poisoning victims claimed that the girls were targeted out of ‘revenge’ as schoolgirls have been pioneers of recent protests in the country.
Iran was swept by protests following the death of a young Iranian Kurdish woman in the custody of the country’s morality police last September. Iranians from all walks of life took part, marking one of the boldest challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 1979 revolution.
The following day, government spokesman Ali Bahadori Jahromi said the education and intelligence ministries were trying to find the cause of the poisonings. Last week, Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri ordered a judicial probe into the incidents. The poisonings have resulted in girls avoiding school. Several schools have been shut due to the pending investigation.