Dozens of Iranian schoolgirls needed hospital treatment on Tuesday after another mysterious poisoning, a news agency reported, the latest in a spate of suspected attacks in the Islamic republic.
Hundreds of cases of respiratory distress have been reported in the past three months among schoolgirls mainly in the holy city of Qom, south of Tehran, with some needing hospitalisation.
A government official said on Sunday that the attacks were believed to be a deliberate attempt to force the closure of girls’ schools.
“Today (Tuesday) at noon, a number of students were poisoned at the Khayyam Girls’ School in the city of Pardis, Tehran province,” Tasnim news agency reported.
It said 35 students had been taken to hospital so far, adding to hundreds of cases of reported poisoning since November in at least two other cities including Qom.
The poisonings come more than five months into protests that spread across Iran after the September 16 death in custody of 22-year-old Iranian Kurd Mahsa Amini following her arrest for an alleged violation of the country’s strict dress code for women.
Tehran says hundreds of people have been killed and thousands arrested in connection with the protests, which the authorities generally describe as “riots”.
On Sunday, students at a girls’ school in Borujerd were rushed to hospital after a poisoning incident, the fourth in the western city within the past week.
Parliament held a meeting on Tuesday to discuss the suspected attacks. The session was attended by Health Minister Bahram Eynollahi, the official IRNA news agency reported.
IRNA quoted speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf as saying that both Qom and Borujerd were “dealing with student poisonings”.
The suspected poisonings were being investigated, Iran’s police chief told Tasnim news agency on Tuesday.
“Our priority is to find the origin of this case, and until then we will not judge whether it was intentional or not,” it quoted Ahmad-Reza Radan as saying.