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Source: AFP

Mar 4, 2023

BY Agence-France Presse

Students from across five provinces receive treatment as president asks ministers to investigate latest cases

Dozens of Iranian schoolgirls across five provinces have been admitted to hospital in a new wave of suspected poisoning attacks, according to local media.

Hundreds of cases of respiratory distress have been reported over the past three months among schoolgirls mainly in the city of Qom, south of Tehran, with some needing hospital treatment.

The Tasnim and Mehr news agencies reported the latest spate of poisonings in the western Hamedan province, as well as Zanjan and West Azerbaijan in Iran’s north-west, Fars in the south and Alborz province in the north.

Dozens had been transferred to local hospitals for treatment, the reports said, adding that all students were in generally good condition.

On Friday, President Ebrahim Raisi said he had asked the ministers of intelligence and interior to follow up on the poisoning cases, describing them as “the enemy’s conspiracy to create fear and despair in the people”.

The foreign ministry spokesperson, Nasser Kanaani, said an investigation into the poisonings was “one of the immediate priorities of the government, to alleviate the concerns of the families and to hold perpetrators accountable”.

On Wednesday, at least 10 girls’ schools were targeted with poisoning attacks, seven in the north-west city of Ardabil and three in the capital, Tehran, according to media reports.

Last week, Iran’s deputy health minister, Younes Panahi, said the poisonings were aimed at shutting down education for girls. “After the poisoning of several students in Qom schools, it was found that some people wanted all schools, especially girls’ schools, to be closed,” the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying at the time.

The poisonings come more than five months into nationwide protests after the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been arrested for an alleged breach of strict dress rules for women.

Tehran says hundreds of people have been killed and thousands arrested in connection with the protests, which the authorities generally describe as “riots”.

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