Iranian activists and civil rights groups are calling for nationwide rallies this week to denounce the authorities’ failure to prevent the poisoning of hundreds of schoolgirls across the country over the past three months.
Jailed human rights activist Narges Mohammadi joined several teachers’ unions and student organizations on March 6 in calling on Iranians to take to the streets on March 7-8, International Women's Day, as more girls' schools were affected by a wave of illnesses.
Panic scenes were reported in several western Kurdish towns where dozens of schoolgirls were sent to medical centers with poisoning symptoms.
“So far, the government has not prevented the continuation of this violence against our children, and has not even investigated or found any suspects,” Mohammadi said in an Instragram post.
The activist, who is serving a long-term sentence in Tehran’s Evin Prison, urged international human rights organizations and the United Nations to take “immediate practical” action against this “hateful and inhumane act.”
A statement published by the Coordinating Council of Educators' Trade Unions demanded “an end to biological repression and the threat to the lives of citizens, especially students."
The council urged the establishment of a mission comprised of civil, trade unions and political activists, doctors, experts and human rights lawyers to thoroughly investigate the matter “in a transparent manner” and make the results public.
Meanwhile, dozens of poisoned schoolgirls in the western cities of Diwandareh, Naqdeh, Mohammadyar, Sanandaj, Tagab, Mako and Harsin were transferred to medical centers and hospitals.
In Diwandareh, in Kurdistan province, at least 60 students at three girls' schools were transferred to Imam Khomeini Hospital due to their deteriorating condition.
At least 50 students from four schools in Naqdeh, in West Azerbaijan, were admitted to the emergency department of the same hospital.
Since late November, hundreds of school students, mostly girls, were treated for 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.
While Iranian political figures and activists have described the wave of poisonings as "chemical" and "biological" attacks, officials have only recently admitted there may be a problem.
On March 6, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei called the poisonings an "unforgivable crime” and said that the perpetrators “should be severely punished.”
Last 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.
So far, no arrest has been announced in relation to the poisonings, which have sparked outrage among the families of the affected students and Iranian society at large.
Hashtags such as #SaveIranianSchoolgirls were trending on Twitter.c