More Than 1,200 Girls Possibly Poisoned at Iranian Schools
The students described smelling weird odors before falling ill. Iranian officials now say the poisonings could be chemical or biological.
More than 1,200 schoolgirls from 60 or more campuses in Iran appear to have been poisoned in recent months in what state officials say could be chemical or biological attacks. One official claims as many as 5,000 students have fallen ill at 230 schools, reports CBS News.
The students described smelling weird odors that smelled like paint, perfume, or something burning. Immediately after that, they experienced various symptoms, such as nausea, shortness of breath, and temporary numbness. Hundreds have been hospitalized, but none have died as a result of the alleged attacks. The unexplained illnesses began in November.
On Monday, Iran’s supreme leader said the suspected poisonings are unforgivable and the crimes, if deliberate, should be punishable by death, reports Reuters. However, before that, one government official downplayed the illnesses, claiming “more than 90% of the poisonings were not caused by external factors, and most came from stress and worries caused by the news,” reports DW.
The motive for the attacks remains unclear, with the government initially blaming them on enemies of the Islamic Republic. Other politicians blamed hardline Islamist groups opposed to girls’ education, reports CNN.
On Tuesday, Iranian officials announced the arrests of a number of people in five provinces linked to the poisonings, reports CBS. On that same day, Iranian teachers held protests in several cities over the suspected poisonings, reports ABC News. Activists claim security forces broke up the demonstrations using water cannons and tear gas. Journalists, activists, and others who have commented about the poisonings are also facing prosecution.
The poisonings follow months of anti-government protests in the country sparked by September’s in-custody death of a woman who had been arrested by the morality police for a dress code violation.
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