Iran: Nationwide protest against Bioterrorist Attacks on schoolgirls
In a powerful display of collective action, teachers across Iran have taken to the streets to demand the safety and security of female students in their schools. Undeterred by the repressive forces and uniforms of the Islamic Council in Tehran, these educators have rallied in dozens of cities, from Mashhad to Isfahan, to decry the spread of chemical attacks on their students.
Organized by the Coordinating Council of Iranian Teachers’ Trade Unions, these protests represent a unified response to a range of pressing concerns, including the decline in the value of the national currency, the targeting of teachers and union activists by administrative offense boards, privatization and the sale of educational, recreational, service, and sports spaces that belong to the education and training sector.
Furthermore, the courageous teachers of Iran are calling for an end to the unjust and humiliating treatment of retired colleagues, as well as the freedom of all imprisoned educators. In the face of these manifold challenges, these educators are standing together, united in their commitment to creating a better future for themselves and their students.
Mohammad Habibi, the spokesperson of the Tehran Teachers’ Trade Union, who was recently released from prison, has spoken out in support of the union’s statement and has called for a gathering on Tuesday March 7, to address the urgent issue of student poisoning. Habibi clarified that the teachers of Iran are vehemently opposed to the closure of schools, and are instead advocating for the provision of safe and secure learning environments for all students.
Moreover, Habibi emphasized the vital importance of the Mahsa movement (Women, Life, Freedom), which has bravely championed the cause of women’s freedom, life, and autonomy in the face of oppressive systems of power. He noted that this movement’s tireless efforts to secure the right to free veiling have been a significant achievement, and one that the government must not be allowed to erode or undermine.
In light of the pervasive insecurity that plagues schools, universities, and girls’ dormitories across the nation, Habibi called on all concerned citizens to join together in support of this main and invaluable demand, and to work tirelessly to ensure that the voices of students and educators are heard and heeded. Together, we can build a brighter future for all Iranians, one where learning is cherished, safety is ensured, and freedom is protected.
Teachers who have taken to the streets in cities throughout Iran have made their demands clear through the powerful messages emblazoned on their placards. Such as “Boko Haram of Iran: Stop Poisoning Our Girls,” “Poisoning Schoolgirls is Torture,” “Corrupt Managers, Stolen Wages,” and “Fatuity is the Cause of Inflation and High Prices.”
Similarly, in other cities, the teachers came together to raise their voices in a united chorus of condemnation, demanding that the chemical attacks on their students be unequivocally denounced and brought to an end. Through these displays of strength and solidarity, these educators are sending a clear message to those in positions of power: they will not rest until the safety and security of their students is assured and their voices are heard.
The Coordinating Council of Educators’ Trade Union Organizations has issued a concerning report detailing the suppression of peaceful protests across Iran. According to the report, Special Guard forces have deployed to education department buildings and are actively preventing any gatherings from forming. In Tehran, the situation is particularly tense, with security forces quickly dispersing any groups of more than two people and using brutal tactics to do so.
Despite these attempts to silence them, a large crowd of parents, teachers, students, and female activists gathered in front of the Islamic Council on Tuesday, March 7. However, plainclothes officers prevented the formation of any groups larger than two people and attempted to arrest students. The teachers and parents courageously stood in their way, preventing the students from being taken into custody.
Videos circulating on social media reveal that the police forces also used violent means to disperse the gathering of protesting teachers in Rasht, with tear gas being fired to disperse the crowd. Despite these efforts to intimidate them, the teachers stood firm and responded to the repression with a resounding cry of “Shameless, Shameless.” Meanwhile, in Diwandara, security forces were deployed to prevent any gatherings of teachers from forming in front of the Department of Education.
These worrying developments serve to underscore the importance of protecting the rights of teachers and students alike, and to demand an end to the use of violent and repressive tactics against peaceful demonstrators.
The Iranian teachers’ union has unequivocally condemned the “bioterrorist” attack on female students, calling it an “organized action” designed to create “social panic” among female students and their parents. All this in order to roll back the hard-won achievements of the “Women, Life, Freedom” movement in Iran.
The Iran House of Cultures has dubbed the chemical attack on girls’ schools “state terrorism.” Meanwhile, Mohammad Hassan Asefari, a member of the fact-finding committee of the Islamic Council, has revealed that more than five thousand students in 25 provinces, and about 230 schools, have been targeted by terrorist chemical attacks until March 6. The cause of these heinous incidents remains unknown.
In a statement supporting the teachers’ gathering today, the Free Workers Union of Iran declared that the aim of the chain attacks’ leaders and perpetrators is to create a climate of terror in the country, particularly among girls and women activists, in order to prevent protests from escalating.
The organization further stated, “The Free Union of Iranian Workers firmly stands behind this call and asserts that the only way to confront this crime against humanity is through united protests by students, parents, and teachers across the country, as well as the support and solidarity of workers and other segments of the Iranian population with these protests.”
In response, protests erupted in cities such as Tehran, Isfahan, Kermanshah, and Ardabil, with demonstrators chanting slogans like “Death to the baby-killing government.” Predictably, government forces in Tehran and Kermanshah attacked protesters and arrested a group.
Just yesterday, protestors in Mahabad took to the streets after the chemical attack on the Saba girls’ school in Goktepe city. They lit fires and chanted “death to the dictator.”
Ali Khamenei, the leader of the Islamic Republic, called for the perpetrators of these attacks to be punished. Meanwhile, the scientific committee of the Ministry of Health has approved the use of a “stimulating substance mainly inhaled” in these poisonings.
Yesterday, during a student event at Chamran University in Ahvaz, a student challenged the Islamic Republic’s denial of involvement in chemical attacks and asked the representative of Ali Khamenei in Iran’s National Security Council, Saeed Jalili, if the regime (meaning pro-regime groups that the authorities claim, some of them have illegal activities beyond the control of the regime.) is not responsible for poisoning schoolgirls and the foreigners are, so the regime have inability to provide security.
In response, Jalili deflected the question by stating that the United States is the most dictatorial country in the world.
In the latest official statement regarding these incidents, the Minister of the Interior of the Islamic Republic of Iran stated that “suspicious samples” had been discovered during field research conducted by relevant institutions. These samples are now being investigated in the country’s prestigious laboratories in order to identify the causes of the health complications experienced by the affected students.
Simultaneously, twenty Iranian human rights defenders have dispatched a letter to four international entities, urging the establishment of an impartial and collaborative committee to probe the gas attacks on schools and provide prompt assistance to affected students.
The serial poisoning of female students in Iran started three months ago, but in recent days and weeks it has increased more and more. The number of schoolgirls who have been poisoned in Iran has now exceeded 630.