UNESCO calls for investigations into potential poisoning of schoolgirls in Iran

Iran's Interior Ministry meanwhile announced arrests in six provinces linked to the suspected poisonings

On March 8, Wednesday, the cultural agency of the United Nations expressed concern about the potential poisoning of many schoolgirls throughout Iran and called for investigations to be carried out. Since November, many incidents involving hundreds of mostly girls' schools have been reported, with thousands of students falling ill due to toxic fumes. Notably, there have been no reported fatalities, but the identity of any chemicals involved remains unclear.

Moreover, no one has taken responsibility for the attacks and the authorities have not identified any suspects yet. Unlike its neighbouring country Afghanistan, Iran has no record of religious extremists targeting girls' education. UNESCO also tweeted, urging thorough investigations and immediate action to protect schools and facilitate the return of affected students, as stated in a report by PTI

Speaking on this, UNESCO head Audrey Azoulay said, "I am deeply concerned about the reported poisoning of schoolgirls in Iran over the past three months. This is a violation of their right to a safe education." Further, Iran officials say that they are investigating the incidents and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called for anyone found responsible for being severely punished.

Additionally, authorities have also tightened restrictions on independent media by arresting journalists, activists and others for speaking about the alleged poisonings. That has made it difficult to determine the scope and nature of the crisis.

Media censorship

It is worth remembering that Iran has been significantly limiting media coverage amidst a series of anti-government demonstrations in recent months, which were triggered by the death of a young woman in September. The woman had been detained by the morality police. Women in Iran are compelled by the country's clerical leaders to dress modestly and cover their heads in public, but the authorities have never opposed girls' and women's education.

Conversely, certain Iranian officials have suggested, without providing any evidence, that the protests and allegations of poisoning are part of a foreign conspiracy to provoke unrest. Online videos have circulated showing teachers protesting the suspected poisonings in several cities on Tuesday, March 7.

Course of action

Iran's Interior Ministry meanwhile announced arrests in six provinces linked to the suspected poisonings. But its statement focused on an individual accused of making a video sent to hostile media and said three others were active in recent protests. Iran has described some of the alleged poisonings as episodes of hysteria.

Similar incident 

The World Health Organisation documented a similar phenomenon in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2012, when hundreds of girls across the country complained of strange smells and poisoning. Further, no evidence was found to support the suspicions, and WHO said it appeared to be a mass psychogenic illness, as stated in a report by PTI

Related Stories

No stories found.