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Source: IranWire

Apr 22, 2023

Iranian Teens Among Suspects in “Fabricated” School Poisoning Case


Iranian security agents have arrested three female teenagers and two men from the southern city of Lar over their alleged involvement in chemical attacks on schools, IranWire has learned.

An informed source told IranWire that the three students are being subjected to intense pressure to confess to carrying out poisoning attacks, despite their protestations of innocence.

The source said that the five suspects were arrested “simply because they were protestors” and that “a scenario was created to accuse them of being involved in the students’ poisoning.”

Two of the students had previously been arrested during anti-government protests in Lar in December. 

Who Are the Suspects?

Since November 2022, hundreds of girls’ schools across Iran have been targeted by poisoning attacks in what Amnesty International described as “a campaign that appears to be highly coordinated and organized.”

As many as 13,000 pupils have reportedly suffered symptoms including nausea, fainting, headaches, coughing, breathing difficulties and heart palpitations, with many requiring treatment in hospital.

The government has claimed to make arrests in connection to the attacks. On March 7, the police commander of Fars province, where Lar is located, announced the arrest of five individuals, including two men aged 50 and 22, and three women.

Acting as a “team,” the suspects threw nitrogen gas canisters into seven schools in Larestan district, poisoning 53 students, according to Saeed Montazer al-Mahdi. Nitrogen, which is the most abundant element in Earth's atmosphere, is not poisonous. 

IranWire’s source identified the girls arrested as 12th-grade student Erfaneh Honar and 10th-grade students Satayesh Amiri and Setayesh Darogheh. They are all aged 17 years and study at the same high school.

The source identified the two other suspects as Amiri’s father, Ebrahim, and a young man, Alireza Bagheri.

On March 3, multiple schools in Lar were targeted by chemical attacks, the source said. On the same day, security forces confiscated the mobile phones of several students, including the three girls arrested in the case, to prevent them from recording videos.

Later that night, Ebrahim Amiri was arrested during a raid on his house. Alireza Bagheri was taken into custody a few hours afterward. During her forced confession, Setayesh Amiri described the young man as her friend.

Despite being minors, the three girls have been held in Shiraz’s Adel Abad prison for over 40 days and subjected to intense pressure to confess to a crime they haven’t committed.

State media in Lar released a video on March 18 in which Setayesh Amiri and her father are described as the main suspects behind the case.

In the footage, the two said they threw a nitrogen gas canister in a school, filmed students being poisoned and sent the videos to the London-based Iran International news channel.

Setayesh Darogheh was targeted due to her “fearlessness and activism,” the source told IranWire, adding that the authorities “are creating a case against her and the others to show that the government is taking action.”

Nearly Six Months of Government Inaction

In a statement issued on March 7, the Ministry of Interior announced the arrest of four people accused of being linked to foreign agents and of participating in recent “riots.”

IranWire’s source said that these individuals are the same as those arrested in the case related to the chemical attacks in Larestan.

On March 11, the ministry issued another statement claiming that more than 100 people were arrested for their involvement in poisonings across Iran.

After Iranian authorities announced arrests over the chemical attacks, UN experts criticized the Islamic Republic for failing to protect the schoolgirls, prevent further attacks and conduct swift investigations.

The experts said the attacks might be “orchestrated to punish girls” for their involvement in nationwide protests sparked by the September 2022 death of a 22-year-old woman in police custody.

As the government showed inability or unwillingness to find the culprits behind the poisonings, the authorities tried to silence those reporting on the attacks and on the officials’ failure to stop them. 

On March 9, Iranian media reported the arrest of a blogger from the north-western city of Urmia who had shared posts about poisonings at girls’ schools.

Tasnim news agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said the blogger, whose name was not disclosed, had more than 700,000 followers on Instagram.

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