Iran arrests several suspects in schoolgirl poisonings

Tehran, Mar 7 (EFE).- Suspects were arrested in connection with the wave of poisonings at girls’ schools in Iran, the interior ministry said Tuesday, as protests over the alleged attacks took place across several cities.

Deputy interior minister Majid Mirahmadi said the first arrests were made in five provinces but did not give further information on either the number of those detained or their backgrounds.

“Based on the intelligence and research measures of the intelligence agencies, a number of people have been detained in five provinces and the relevant agencies are conducting a full investigation,” Mirahmadi was quoted as saying by Fars news agency.

Around 5,000 girls from 230 schools across 25 provinces have fallen sick since the poisonings began in the Shiite holy city of Qom in November when the protests over the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody were in full swing, according to member of the parliamentary fact-finding committee Mohammad-Hassan Asafari.

Those affected report symptoms including headache, dizziness, nausea and sometimes inability to move limbs after detecting a smell of rotten orange and cleaning products.

The mysterious wave of poisonings has sparked widespread anger, especially among parents, due to the authorities’ perceived “idleness” in repelling the poisonings they believe are intentional to shut down girls’ schools.

Parents, students and teachers Tuesday took to the streets of several cities including Tehran, Isfahan, Karaj, Mashhad, Rasht, Sanandaj, and Shiraz to protest against the lack of security for students

According to activists, security forces dispersed protesters using water cannons and tear gas.

Charges, meanwhile, were filed against various media outlets such as the Shargh daily and Ham-Mihan newspapers for “spreading rumors” about the poisonings.

The arrest announcement comes a day after the health ministry attributed the vast majority of the alleged gas poisoning cases to “anxiety.”

“Probably less than 10 percent of the children (reportedly poisoned) had actually been affected by irritant substances,” deputy health minister Saeed Karimi said.

On Monday, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei called the wave of poisonings among schoolgirls an “unforgivable crime,” saying the perpetrators of this crime “should be severely punished.”

School students took part in the anti-government protests that broke out following Amini’s death in September after she was arrested for allegedly not wearing hijab correctly, took off their veils and shouted “woman, life, freedom”. EFE


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