Iran’s top leader says suspected poison ‘unforgiving’

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Iran’s supreme leader said on Monday that if a series of suspected poisonings at girls’ schools is proven to be deliberate, those guilty should be sentenced to death for an “indecent crime”. merciful” to do.

It was the first time Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all state affairs, has spoken publicly about the suspected poisonings, which began late last year and has sickened hundreds of children.

Iranian officials have only identified in recent weeks and have not provided details on who may have been behind the attacks or what chemicals – if any – were used. to use Unlike neighboring Afghanistan, Iran has no history of religious extremists targeting women’s education.

“If the poisoning of students is confirmed, those behind this crime should be severely punished and there will be no amnesty for them,” Khamenei said, according to the state-run IRNA news agency. by the state.

Authorities have acknowledged suspected attacks at more than 50 schools in 21 of Iran’s 30 provinces since November.

Iran’s Interior Minister, Ahmad Vahidi, said over the weekend that “suspicious samples” had been collected by investigators, without elaborating. He called on the public to remain calm and accused unnamed enemies of inciting fear of undermining the Islamic Republic.

Vahidi said at least 52 schools had been affected by the suspected poisoning, while Iranian media reports put the number of schools at more than 60. One boy’s school was reportedly affected.

Videos of distraught parents and schoolgirls in emergency rooms with IVs in their arms have flooded social media.

Iran has imposed strict restrictions on independent media since nationwide protests began in September, making it difficult to determine the nature and scope of the suspected poisonings.

On Monday, Iranian media reported that authorities arrested Qom-based journalist Ali Pourtabatabaei, who had been regularly reporting on the suspected poisonings. The hardline newspaper Kayhan in an editorial called for the arrest of newspaper publishers who printed articles on the crisis that criticized Iranian democracy.

The protests were sparked by the death of a young woman who was detained by morality police for allegedly violating the country’s strict dress code. Religious fanatics in Iran have been known to attack women they see dressing up in public. But even at the height of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, women and girls continued to attend schools and universities.

The children affected by the poisons have complained of headaches, heart palpitations, feeling lethargic or otherwise unable to move. Some mentioned the smell of tangerines, chlorine or cleaning agents.

Reports say that at least 400 pupils have been sick since November. Vahidi, the minister of the interior, said in his statement that two girls are staying in the hospital because of bad conditions. No deaths were reported.

As more attacks were reported on Sunday, videos were posted on social media showing children complaining of pain in the legs, abdomen and dizziness. State media have described them as “hysteric reactions.”

The World Health Organization recorded a similar incident in Afghanistan from 2009 to 2012, when hundreds of girls across the country complained of strange smells and poisoning. No evidence was found to support the suspicions, and the WHO said it appeared to be a “serious psychogenic illness”.

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