Amnesty International: Millions of Iranian schoolgirls at risk of “deliberate” poisoning

Amnesty International: Millions of Iranian schoolgirls at risk of “deliberate” poisoning
# 19 April 2023 18:42 (UTC +04:00)

Amnesty International warned on April 18 that the rights to education, health and life of millions of schoolgirls in Iran are at risk amid what it called “ongoing chemical gas attacks deliberately targeting girls’ schools” in the country.

Since November 2022, 13,000 students have reportedly suffered symptoms including nausea, fainting, headaches, coughing, breathing difficulties and heart palpitations, with many requiring treatment in hospital, APA reports.

Hundreds of girls’ schools have been targeted in what the London-based human rights group described as “a campaign that appears to be highly coordinated and organized.”

The poisonings have sparked fear and anger among schoolgirls, their parents and wider Iranian society, and prompted calls for increased security measures at schools, with several principals reportedly asking parents to keep their children at home.

Last month, police announced the arrest of 110 people for alleged involvement in smuggling “stink bombs,” which they claimed was the main cause of the poisonings.

But according to Amnesty International, the authorities “sought to coverup” the gravity and scale of the attacks and have yet to “carry out effective and independent investigations or take meaningful steps to end them.”

The minister of health has claimed there was “no hard evidence” that schoolgirls were being poisoned and said that “more than 90 percent of the ill health was caused by stress and mischief.” Other officials dismissed the symptoms experienced by schoolgirls as “anxiety,” “excitement” and “mental contagion.”

Meanwhile, the authorities have tried to “silence public calls for accountability by subjecting distressed parents, schoolgirls, teachers, journalists and others to violence, intimidation and arrest for peacefully protesting or reporting on the authorities’ failure to stop the poisonings,” Amnesty International said.

UN experts have 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.