Iranian poisonings: Over 5,000 ‘schoolgirls and boys’ poisoned, official says amid arrests

Iran has announced the first arrests in a wave of suspected poisonings that an official said numbered more than 5,000.

The announcement of the arrests comes a day after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei spoke publicly about the suspected poisonings for the first time on Monday.

Iran is trying to contain criticism of its response to the poisonings and unprecedented protests over the death of Mahsa Amini.

In recent days, there have been reports of hundreds of cases of poisoning schoolgirls with “chemical compounds”, some dating back to November last year.

Mohammad-Hassan Asafari, a member of a parliamentary inquiry committee, said according to AFP, citing the ISNA news agency, that “more than 5,000 schoolgirls and boys” were poisoned.

“Twenty-five (out of 31) counties and about 230 schools have been affected and more than 5,000 schoolgirls and boys have been poisoned,” he said.

“Based on the intelligence and investigative measures of the intelligence agencies, a number of people have been arrested in five provinces and the relevant agencies are conducting a full investigation,” Deputy Interior Minister Majid Mirahmadi told state television on Tuesday.

However, he did not provide specific details about those detained.

The aytollah said perpetrators of the “unforgivable crime” should be punished with death if the crimes were committed intentionally.

“If the poisoning of students is proven, those behind this crime should be sentenced to death and there will be no amnesty for them,” Khamenei said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

Earlier this week, three journalists and three dissidents were summoned for questioning after they reportedly contested the government’s handling of the incidents.

“A number of people” suspected of manufacturing hazardous materials have been arrested in six provinces, including the parent of a student, the Interior Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.

So far, the arrests have been made in the provinces of Khuzestan, West Azerbaijan, Fars, Kermanshah, Khorasan and Alborz.

The Home Office stated that one of those arrested allegedly used their child to put the “annoying” in the school and then recorded videos of sick students that were sent to “hostile media outlets” to “instill fear… and closing schools”.

It also added that three suspects have criminal records, “including involvement in the recent riots”.

Last week, Iran’s deputy health minister Younes Panahi said that “certain individuals sought the closure of all schools, especially girls’ schools,” without providing further details, alleging that girls in Iran were being deliberately poisoned using “chemical compounds” to keep them out of schools. .

The poisonings resulted in several girls being hospitalized.

The first incident was reported from Qom, home of Iran’s clergy and theological seminaries. It is located 100 miles south of the capital.

Earlier this month, parents of the students who were sick gathered outside Qom governorate to “demand clarification” from education officials.

“We don’t want unsafe schools” and “schools must be secure”, hundreds of demonstrators chanted.

The victims reported symptoms of nausea, headache, cough, difficulty breathing and palpitations.

Iran’s Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi had previously called on the public to remain calm and accused unnamed enemies of inciting fear to undermine the Islamic Republic.

Videos of upset parents and schoolgirls in the emergency room with drips on their arms have flooded social media.

According to the Associated Press, the World Health Organization documented a similar phenomenon in Afghanistan from 2009-12, when hundreds of girls across the country complained of strange odors and poisoning.

No evidence was found to support the suspicions and the WHO said they appeared to be “mass psychogenic illnesses”.

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