Iran’s Supreme Leader says the perpetrators should face the death penalty if hundreds of schoolgirls in his country are found to have been deliberately poisoned. If it can be proven, it is an “unforgivable crime,” Ayatollah Khamenei said, according to the state news agency IRNA. “Those behind it should be given the death penalty and then there will be no amnesty.”
It was the first time Khamenei had spoken out about an issue that had been going on for months. According to the authorities, students from fifty schools in several parts of the country have fallen ill since November. All but one school were girls’ schools. They would have become ill from a gas that was spread through the air ventilation system.
Iranian media speak of a larger number of affected schools, namely more than a hundred. There would be a total of 2400 victims. The girls would have experienced complaints such as nausea, dizziness and breathing problems. Images of frightened girls and their parents at emergency department posts are circulating on social media.
Ayatollah Khamenei reacts indignantly to the poisonings:
Many poisonings are said to have occurred in the city of Qom and the surrounding area in particular. Today Iranian media report that a journalist from that city, who wrote a lot about the poisonings, has been arrested.
Last week, President Raisi already announced an investigation. Far too late, say many parents. “If it was something that threatened the regime, the problem would be solved within a day,” mother Roya told NOS.
Roya, who only wants to be called by her first name, is angry about the government’s lack of measures. It is clear to her and many other Iranians that the government is responsible for this. “This is done with the consent of the regime and is a way of suppressing the protest movement.”
Iran expert Ladan Rahbari of the University of Amsterdam called that a plausible scenario. “It’s possible it’s government retaliation for the activism in girls’ schools,” he said. Young women and girls were the driving force behind the protests that began last September after the death of Mahsa Amini.
Similar events occurred in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2012. In 2012, 150 girls fell ill there because they allegedly drank poisoned water. At the time, a battle was raging in Afghanistan between a government supported by the West and the radical Islamic Taliban. Authorities assumed that the Taliban had poisoned the water. Evidence for this was not found.
- Anger among Iranian parents for poisoning girls, ‘possible revenge’
- Iranian regime embarrassed about poisoning hundreds of schoolgirls