Tehran (EFE).- The mysterious gas poisonings in girls’ schools are causing new tensions in Iran, between the contradictions of the authorities, the accusations against “enemies” of the country and the growing discontent among parents.
Nearly 1,000 students have been poisoned with an alleged gas in some 50 women’s educational centers in a dozen cities in the country since November, in incidents that began in the Shi’ite holy city of Qom and have multiplied in recent days.
These are approximate figures provided by Iranian media since the authorities do not agree on the number of students or schools affected, and even avoid confirming that these are deliberate poisonings.
The latest cases occurred yesterday, when more than a hundred female students were poisoned in eight schools and institutes in the city of Ardebil, three schools in Tehran, one in Parand and another in Kermanshah.
There is a consensus regarding the symptoms that have been repeated over and over again: headaches, heart palpitations, nausea, dizziness and sometimes the inability to move the extremities.
Those affected also agree that before becoming ill they perceived a smell of rotten orange and cleaning products.
Hundreds of young people have been hospitalized so far with “mild symptoms” and no student has died.
In the midst of panic among parents, the Iranian authorities send contradictory messages, backtrack and resort to the usual accusations against “enemies” of the country.
The Minister of Health, Bahram Eynollahi, has affirmed that “some type of moderate poison” has been used in attacks that the Deputy Minister of Education, Younes Panahi, described as “intentional” to close girls’ schools.
Panahi later backed down and assured that he had been “misinterpreted”.
For his part, Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidí has said that many of the girls’ symptoms are caused by “stress” and “anxiety”, and accused “enemies of Iran and the foreign media” of provoking public alarm.
Vahidí is the man in charge of the investigation of these gas attacks, after yesterday the president of Iran, Ebrahim Raisí, ordered to clarify “quickly” what is happening.
Unrest among the population
The lack of information, the ineffectiveness of the security forces and the misfortunes of the authorities fuel a growing discontent among the parents of a country in which female education has not been questioned in decades.
In fact, 60% of Iranian university students are women, who in other aspects suffer numerous sexist discriminations.
Groups of parents have shouted “Death to the Government that murders children” in front of several schools in the country, according to videos shared on social networks by the 1500tasvir collective.
Videos of girls hospitalized, lying in schools with breathing problems or saying “I can’t breathe” have gone viral on social networks like Twitter and spur fears among the population.
Given the lack of certainty, all kinds of theories have begun to circulate about the origin and objectives of these attacks.
Some theories point to fundamentalists seeking revenge for the role of young women in the protests sparked by the death in September of Mahsa Amini, after being arrested for not wearing a veil properly.
The students of schools and institutes participated in these protests with a marked feminist tone, took off their veils, shouted “woman, life, freedom” and cut their sleeves to portraits of the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, and Ayatollah Ruholá Khomeini.
State repression has managed to calm down the protests, in which almost 500 people have died and for which four demonstrators have been hanged.
But the wave of poisonings has brought back the cries of “death to the Islamic Republic.”