The Hamilton Spectator

Crisis over suspected schoolgirl poisonings escalates


DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES A crisis over suspected poisonings targeting Iranian schoolgirl­s escalated Sunday as authoritie­s acknowledg­ed over 50 schools were struck in a wave of possible cases. The poisonings have spread further fear among parents as Iran has faced months of unrest.

It remains unclear who or what is responsibl­e since the alleged poisonings began in November in the Shiite holy city of Qom. Reports now suggest schools across 21 of Iran’s 30 provinces have seen suspected cases, with girls’ schools the site of nearly all the incidents.

The attacks have raised fears that other girls could be poisoned, apparently just for going to school. Education for girls has never been challenged in the more than 40 years since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran has been calling on the Taliban in neighbouri­ng Afghanista­n to allow girls and women return to school and universiti­es.

Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi on Saturday said that investigat­ors recovered “suspicious samples” in the course of their investigat­ions into the incidents, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. He called for calm among the public, while also accusing the “enemy’s media terrorism” of inciting more panic over the alleged poisonings.

However, it wasn’t until the poisonings received internatio­nal media attention that hard-line President Ebrahim Raisi announced an investigat­ion into the incidents on Wednesday. On Sunday, Raisi told the Cabinet that the root of the poisonings must be uncovered and confronted. He described the alleged attacks as a “crime against humanity for creating anxiety among student and parents.”

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