Germany has joined the United States in expressing concern over a wave of poisonings at girls' schools across Iran and in calling on the country’s authorities to thoroughly investigate the incidents.
Over the past three months, hundreds of school students, mostly girls, have been treated for poisoning symptoms, including nausea, headaches, coughing, breathing difficulties, and heart palpitations.
Some Iranians have suggested that the poisonings could be an attempt to force the closure of girls’ schools or a retaliation for students and women leading ongoing nationwide protests sparked by the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of morality police.
“The reports of schoolgirls being poisoned in #Iran are shocking. Girls must be able to go to school without fear,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock tweeted on March 3.
“This is nothing less than their #humanright. All cases must be fully investigated.”
In Washington, US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said that the news coming out of Iran are “deeply concerning.”
“Truth is, we don’t know right now what caused those ailments. We see reports that the Iranian government are investigating it, that’s the right course of action,” Kirby added.
“We want those investigations to be thorough and complete, and we want them to be transparent. Little girls going to school should only have to worry about learning. They shouldn’t have to worry about their own physical safety, but we just don’t know enough right now.”
But Jason Brodsky, policy director at the US non-profit advocacy organization United Against Nuclear Iran, asked, “How can the Biden administration expect Iran’s regime to conduct a ‘transparent’ investigation into the chemical attacks?”
“The system is based on opacity, corruption, gaslighting, and coverups,” Brodsky wrote on Twitter.
How can the Biden administration expect #Iran's regime to conduct a "transparent" investigation into the chemical attacks? How did the #MahsaAmini "investigation" pan out? Lies. The system is based on opacity, corruption, gaslighting, and coverups.https://t.co/k91eHnXAxd— Jason Brodsky (@JasonMBrodsky) March 2, 2023
While Iranian political figures and activists have described the incidents as "chemical" and "biological" attacks, officials have only recently admitted there may be a problem.
This week, President Ebrahim Raisi said the Interior Ministry should probe the incidents, with help from the health and intelligence ministries, and quickly release the results to the public.
It all started in late November in the city of Qom, south of Tehran, when dozens of schoolgirls fell ill and had to be transported to a hospital. Most were discharged shortly afterward, but several had to be kept for observation for several days.
Similar poisonings have since occurred in multiple cities across the country.
So far, no arrest has been announced in relation to the poisonings, which have sparked outrage among the families of the affected students.
During a March 1 rally in front of a girls' school in Tehran, the parents of students were subjected to severe beatings by security forces and plainclothes officers, sparking widespread condemnation on social media.
Some angry parents have refused to send their children to school.