(RepublicanPress.org) – The Islamic Republic of Iran has a longstanding history of internal struggles coupled with external pressure. Nationwide protests have rocked Iran’s metropolitan centers since late September 2022. They began after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died under mysterious circumstances after her arrest by the country’s religious morality police for not wearing a hijab.
Most recently, the inexplicable poisoning of thousands of schoolgirls across the country beginning in November has created a new wave of protests. Bowing to mounting international condemnation and calls for action, Iranian authorities recently announced the arrest of several suspects.
Iran Announces Arrests Related to Mysterious Schoolgirl Poisonings
On March 6, the Iran Press reported that Iran’s religious leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, spoke to members of the press during a brief ceremony marking National Tree Planting Day. He stressed the importance of tracking down the individual responsible for the poisonings, adding that “there will be no amnesty for these people.”
The Iran Press also reported that President Ebrahim Raisi had already turned the investigation over to the Ministry of the Interior. Additionally, the president advised the Ministry to keep the public informed of its progress.
On March 7, CBS News reported that Majid Mirahmadi, Iran’s Deputy Interior Minister, announced the arrest of “a number of people” scattered across several provinces. He also confirmed that the “relevant” law enforcement agencies were continuing their investigations of the poisonings.
Later that day, the Iran Press reported the Ministry of Interior issued a statement confirming the arrests took place in 6 provinces: Alborz, Fars, Kermanshah, Khorasan, Khuzestan, and West Azerbaijan.
The Associated Press (AP) corroborated that figure, adding that the Ministry’s statement focused primarily on accusations one of the arrestees made a video of the poisonings and distributed it to “hostile media” outlets to exploit the nationwide “fear and apprehension” surrounding the school poisonings.
The Impact of the Iranian Schoolgirl Poisonings
The AP reported that “at least 99 cities and 28 of Iran’s 31 provinces have been affected in the crisis.” Citing a local human rights organization, the AP noted that at least 7,060 students reported experiencing symptoms of poisoning since the incidents began. Previous reports indicated that at least 1,000 of the impacted students reported falling ill, with as many as 400 requiring hospitalization.
A prominent lawmaker named Mohammed Hassan Asefari recently told the Iranian Students’ News Agency that roughly 5,000 students complained of falling ill. He also said the incidents impacted 230 schools across at least 25 provinces.
A separate AP article reported that authorities haven’t determined what chemicals may have been used in the attacks if any. Additionally, no one has claimed responsibility for the incidents, and Iranian religious extremists don’t have a history of targeting female schools.
.@UNESCO urges thorough investigations and immediate actions to protect schools and facilitate the return of affected students in Iran, to their safe and healthy classrooms.#CSW67 #IWD2023 pic.twitter.com/PsG1p5hE4l
— UNESCO 🏛️ #Education #Sciences #Culture 🇺🇳 (@UNESCO) March 8, 2023
On March 8, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) posted a tweet calling for “thorough investigations and immediate actions” to expedite the return of safe classrooms. A statement from Director-General Audrey Azoulay noting that the schoolgirl poisonings violated their “right to safe education” accompanied the announcement.
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