Poisoning, Violence, and Oppression: The Islamic Republic’s War on Women
The “Women, Life, Freedom” movement, which involved removing the hijab, tearing pictures of Khamenei and Khomeini, and chanting slogans mostly in girls’ schools, has infuriated the regime to such an extent that they have given the green light to use their powers to retaliate against this uprising. This is a longstanding behavior in the history of the Islamic Republic, with examples including serial murders, gang killings, and acid attacks against women in Isfahan. These actions are deeply disturbing and cause terror among the people.
On November 30th, for the first time, news of suspected poisoning of students was reported with a report from a school girls’ Conservatory in Qom. In the past two months, similar reports have emerged from Borujerd, Ardabil, and Tehran, leaving no doubt that these poisonings are not accidental and are part of a deliberate campaign of terror. This program has only targeted girls’ schools so far, with the exception of one case.
On February 21st, a report of poisoning emerged in Borujerd, where 260 high school students were hospitalized. Within ten days, students from two girls’ high schools were hospitalized after inhaling an unknown substance in the school environment.
In recent days, students of a girls’ primary school in the city of Borujerd experienced a poisoning incident, which resulted in nearly 60 students being sent to the hospital. Additionally, a large number of students from the same school, who showed symptoms of nausea and dizziness, were treated on an outpatient basis in the school yard with the assistance of emergency technicians.
According to a report in the national newspaper “Ham-Mihan,” an emergency doctor at Borujerd City Hospital treated a group of poisoned students and observed that most of them had symptoms of headache, breathing difficulties, lethargy, nausea, and low blood pressure. Some also showed signs of extreme stress. The doctor stressed the importance of thorough examination and toxicology tests, which should be conducted at reputable laboratories in Tehran or the provincial capital. The doctor also reported the presence of security forces in the hospital, who were investigating the cause of the incident.
The extent of chemical attack on girls’ schools is high. about 58 school in 10 provinces.
Tabnak media, which is owned by the commanders of the IRGC and known for its support of the government’s fundamental policies, has rightly labeled the chemical attacks on girls’ schools as acts of terrorism. However, it is concerning that the same security forces that are investigating the attacks have resorted to attacking the parents of the protesting students, and dozens of people have been arrested for participating in demonstrations.
A report in the national newspaper “Sharq” has highlighted that doctors and nurses are hesitant to share information about the injured patients transferred to their hospital. Many nurses are unwilling to speak, while doctors provide only brief explanations of the situation. They fear potential consequences and confrontations that may arise from disclosing information. According to the newspaper, hospital staff have been instructed not to share any information, with orders reportedly coming from the authorities and the Ministry of Health. However, officials from the Ministry of Health have not provided any interviews to explain what happened. The newspaper stated that the ministry spokesperson has not responded to calls, and other officials are not authorized to comment on the issue.
A few days ago, Iran’s health minister gave a controversial interview in which he claimed that the poisoning of the students was caused by a mild toxin that did not result in any complications, with affected individuals only experiencing lethargy and weakness for a few hours. However, news from hospitals indicates that the poisonings were not as mild as described by the minister. The lack of media coverage on the events makes it difficult to obtain accurate information in such situations.
The Iranian Teachers Union released a statement in response to the recent events, stating that there is a strong suspicion that the government aims to undermine the progress made by the “Women, Life, Freedom” movement by creating social panic among girls and their families. The union strongly condemns these actions and the lack of accountability from the responsible institutions in addressing and clarifying this issue, especially since the deliberate and organized nature of these attacks has been publicly acknowledged. The union expects immediate and effective actions from the responsible institutions in dealing with these acts of terrorism.
During an interview with Asre-Iran website, Nafiseh Moradi, a researcher of Islamic studies and PhD scholar of Quranic and Hadith sciences at Al-Zahra University, suggested that the focus of these attacks on girls’ schools raises concerns about sabotage and extremist views similar to those held by the Taliban. Moradi added that the purpose of these poisonings may be to create fear and terror among girls and their families and to obstruct their education.
The publication of news on the Ministry of Education’s news channel, which stated that a group called “Fedaiyan Velayat” had claimed responsibility for the attacks with the aim of preventing girls from studying, has fueled these speculations even further.
During a press conference in Mashhad city, the Deputy Minister of Research and Technology at the Ministry of Health confirmed the intentional poisoning of students over the last two months. He further admitted that “the intention behind these attacks was to close down all schools, particularly girls’ schools.”
The Isfahan acid attacks on women, which occurred eight years ago, coincided with a proposal in the Iranian parliament to grant immunity to those who enforced Islamic Sharia laws on people’s private lives. At that time, the Imam of Isfahan called for the punishment of those who do not adhere Hijabs in the city. The attacks were widely criticized by many who believed they were a result of the government’s policy of sparing “religious extremists” from punishment while targeting women who did not adhere to strict Islamic dress codes.
The chemical attacks on students brings back memories of the suspected acid attacks in Isfahan, where the perpetrators were never identified.
On Saturday, March 4, groups of protesting citizens and parents of students gathered in front of education sector buildings in various cities in Iran, including Tehran, Isfahan, Kermanshah, and Ardabil. The gatherings were met with suppression by security forces as protesters chanted slogans against the poisoning of female students, Ali Khamenei, and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Meanwhile, reports and videos of new chemical attacks on schools in different cities surfaced. The protests resulted in the arrest of dozens of people across various cities.
In Tehran, the slogan “Death to the Taliban, whether in Iran or Afghanistan” and “They killed our children and replaced them with mullahs” was chanted.
The Iranian Writers’ Association stated, “For the past three to four decades, women in this country have endured violence and oppression that is truly intolerable. So-called ‘honor’ killings and acid attacks are just a few examples of this heinous violence. In all these cases, the government has not only failed to develop a plan to end this pervasive misogyny, but it has also fueled it by promoting superstition, reactionary ideas, and using widespread censorship.”
These questions are now being raised in public opinion in Iran: What are the goals behind the serial poisoning of girls? If, as the Islamic Republic claims, this action was the work of opposition abroad, why did it take so long to identify and arrest the perpetrators? Was there a need for so many contradictions and cover-ups?