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April 11, 2023 2:52 pm

Report: Chemical Attacks on Iranian Students Cross 300 Mark


avatar by Andrew Bernard

A newspaper with a cover picture of Mahsa Amini, a woman who died after being arrested by Iranian morality police is seen in Tehran, Iran, September 18, 2022. Photo: Majid Asgaripour/WANA (West Asia News Agency) via REUTERS/

The number of recorded chemical attacks on Iranian students, mostly targeting girls’ schools, has crossed the 300 mark, according to a database of the attacks maintained by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD).

The attacks, which have been recorded across Iran, began in November following the start of mass womens’ protests in response to the killing of Mahsa Amini in regime custody in September. However, the number of recorded poisonings skyrocketed in March, with FDD recording 247 incidents across 139 cities and towns.

The Iranian authorities have acknowledged the poisonings, with Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi launching an investigation on 1 March and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei on 6 March calling it an “unforgivable crime” whose perpetrators should be executed.

But those official statements and subsequent mass arrests of 110 people blamed for the attacks may be a smokescreen for the regime’s own culpability according to FDD’s report.

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“These attacks have been sophisticated, organized, persistent, widespread, and targeted,” the report says. “Iran’s clerical regime likely perpetrated the attacks in response to the revolutionary protests that have consumed the country since September 2022, when government officials killed 22-year-old Mahsa Amini for alleged improper headscarf wear. Further, in a country like Iran, where the government has tight control over society, it is unlikely that anti-regime groups could have engaged in such operations in broad daylight. In addition, dissident groups have no incentive to target schoolgirls in the middle of a revolution promoting women’s rights.”

The regime crackdown on the nationwide protests over Amini’s death has killed more than 500 people. Of the nearly 20,000 people arrested, more than 100 are facing a potential death sentence.

The US has responded to the violent repression of protests by sanctioning Iranian security officials, and the Islamic Republic’s brutal actions against the Iranian people have been cited by US officials as one of the reasons that a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal is “not on the agenda.” On Monday, in a bipartisan Congressional letter encouraging the European Union to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, the IRGC’s role in human rights abuses during the protests was named alongside its plots to assassinate European citizens and attack synagogues in Germany as reason for sanctioning the group.

Despite hundreds if not thousands of girls being hospitalized in the school attacks, Iran’s Interior Minister had previously dismissed the idea that the attacks were intentional, attributing 90% of them to “stress.” 

The attacks have also drawn the attention of the United Nations, with experts “expressing outrage” in March.

“We fear that they are orchestrated to punish girls for their involvement in the movement – Women, Life, Freedom, and for expressing their opposition to mandatory hijab and voicing their demands for equality,” the experts wrote. “There is a stark contrast between the rapid deployment of force to arrest and jail peaceful protestors and an incapacity spanning months to identify and arrest perpetrators of large scale, coordinated attacks against young girls in Iran.”

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