The Daily Telegraph

Iranian girls are being deliberate­ly poisoned to stop them going to school, says minister

- By Campbell Macdiarmid

A SPATE of illnesses among children is being caused by deliberate poisoning intended to shut girls’ schools, a senior Iranian official has said.

Younes Panahi, deputy health minister, told reporters on Sunday that “certain individual­s sought the closure of all schools, especially girls’ schools” and had deliberate­ly poisoned pupils with “chemical compounds”, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

Mr Panahi did not give further details but in recent months Iranian media has reported that several hundred girls have fallen ill at school, with many reporting having detected a strange odour, sometimes described as smelling of fruit or tangerines.

In the past week, 15 schoolgirl­s were reported to have been hospitalis­ed with poisoning symptoms in Qom, Iran’s religious capital, while the governor of Borujerd, the capital of Lorestan province, announced that 82 schoolgirl­s had been hospitalis­ed with carbon monoxide poisoning.

The incidents have all occurred at girls’ schools, with the first reported in November in Qom. About 100 miles south of Tehran, Qom is home to Iran’s clergy and theologica­l seminaries, where most of the country’s leaders have studied.

At least 14 schools in four cities have reported similar experience­s, including Tehran, the capital, and Ardabil, in the northwest.

One video shared online showed a row of ambulances parked outside a school while paramedics attend to young women, one of whom is lying on the ground.

Another video shared by state news agencies showed angry parents confrontin­g education officials to demand a response to the incidents.

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