Iran Arrests Suspects in Poisoning of Schoolgirls

Reuters file photo
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks in Tehran, Iran February 8, 2023.

TEHRAN (AFP-Jiji) — Iran announced Tuesday it had made the first arrests in a spate of mystery poisonings of schoolgirls that has affected more than 5,000 pupils since late November.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had called Monday for the perpetrators of the “unforgivable crime” to be tracked down “without mercy” as public anger mounts.

The interior ministry said in a statement on Tuesday “a number of people” suspected of manufacturing hazardous substances had been arrested in six provinces, including a pupil’s parent.

Iran’s deputy interior minister, Majid Mirahmadi, told state television earlier on Tuesday that the “intelligence agencies” had made several arrests, “and the relevant agencies are conducting a full investigation.”

Scores of Iranian schools have been hit by poisonings since late November, with pupils suffering symptoms ranging from shortness of breath to nausea and vertigo after reporting “unpleasant” odors on school premises. Some have been treated in hospital.

“Twenty-five [out of 31] provinces and approximately 230 schools have been affected, and more than 5,000 schoolgirls and boys poisoned,” Mohammad-Hassan Asafari, a member of the parliamentary fact-finding committee, told the ISNA news agency on Monday.

“Various tests are being carried out to identify the type and cause of the poisonings. So far, no specific information has been obtained regarding the type of poison used.”