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Iran’s Top Sunni Cleric Calls For Action Against Schoolgirl Poisonings

March 3, 2023
Akhtar Safi
3 min read
Molavi Abdolhamid, the Sunni Friday prayer leader of the southeastern city of Zahedan, made the comments in his Friday sermon on March 3, ahead of weekly protests demanding fundamental economic, social and political reforms
Molavi Abdolhamid, the Sunni Friday prayer leader of the southeastern city of Zahedan, made the comments in his Friday sermon on March 3, ahead of weekly protests demanding fundamental economic, social and political reforms

Iran’s most prominent Sunni cleric has urged the authorities to act against a wave of poisonings at girls' schools, suggesting that the incidents could be a retaliation for students participating in ongoing nationwide protests.

Molavi Abdolhamid, the Sunni Friday prayer leader of the southeastern city of Zahedan, made the comments in his Friday sermon on March 3, ahead of weekly protests demanding fundamental economic, social and political reforms.

Activists said there was a large presence of security forces in the restive city as hundreds of anti-government demonstrators took to the streets, chanting slogans such as "I will kill whoever killed my brother."

Internet monitor NetBlocks reported a “significant disruption” to Internet connectivity, saying that it “follows a pattern of network blackouts targeting continued Friday protests.”

Residents of Zahedan, the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan, have been holding protest rallies every Friday since September 30, when security forces killed nearly 100 people. It is the deadliest incident so far in the nationwide demonstrations triggered by the September death of a 22-year-old Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, in the custody of Tehran’s morality police.

Amid unabated protests, hundreds of students, mostly girls, have been treated for poisoning symptoms across Iran over the past three months, sparking speculation of a plot to force the closure of girls' schools.

Molavi, who has been a key dissenting voice inside the country since the eruption of the women-led protest movement, said in his sermon, "Many believe that these poisonings are a continuation of the suppression of protests, that these girls were protesting in schools and that a group is now targeting them.”

“Anyone who doesn’t take action against [the poisonings] is not worthy of the country.”

Last week, he denounced what he called the "inhumane, anti-Islamic” attacks against women’s education and a “revenge for their recent uprising.”

Iranian security forces have killed more than 520 people across the country and unlawfully detained over 19,000 others since the eruption of the protests, activists say.

Following biased trials, the judiciary has handed down stiff sentences, including the death penalty, to protesters. Four protesters have been executed so far amid international condemnation.

The demonstrations and clampdown on dissent have been particularly intense in the country’s western Kurdish areas and Sistan and Baluchistan, home to Iran's Sunni Baluch minority of up to 2 million people.

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