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Illustration by Fatima Wojohat

Girls Poisoned in Schools in Iran

Over 900 schoolchildren, mostly girls, have been poisoned by unknown substances on school grounds in Iran.

Mar 6, 2023

Over the past three months, hundreds of schoolgirls throughout different provinces in Iran have required hospitalization after being poisoned by unknown substances on school grounds. The symptoms are similar across schools and include nausea, headaches, coughing, breathing difficulties, heart palpitations, muscle weakness, and burning eyes.
On March 5, schoolgirls in 19 different Iranian cities were admitted into hospitals for symptoms of poisoning. Students in 60 girls-only schools and seven boys-only schools were also hospitalized just a day before, on Mar. 4, after showing signs of poisoning.
The cause behind the poisoning symptoms is still unknown. Affected students commonly report hearing a “bomb-like” sound on school premises before becoming aware of a foul smell. Schoolgirls report smelling chlorine or cleaning agents before falling ill, while others described smelling “rotten tangerine” or “spearmint” in the air. Despite the fact that the poisonings have been going on for months, adequate investigations have not been launched, and dozens of schoolchildren continue to be targeted every day. Iranwire reported deliberate neglect in investigating the origin of the poisonings, with urine and blood tests not being done in emergency departments of Iranian hospitals. Furthermore, there have been reports of security agents threatening the poisoned schoolchildren and their families in emergency departments. Parents of affected children have conducted rallies and protests against the inaction of the government in the investigation of the chain poisonings. During a rally on March 1 in front of a girls' school in Tehran, parents of students were subjected to severe beatings by security forces, which were widely condemned on social media.
In one widely shared video, a mother had her hair pulled by a security agent while another agent held her mouth. Since then, Iranian state media, without providing any evidence, have claimed that the woman in question does not have any children enrolled in the Tehran school and had only stood in front of the school to incite bystanders to shout anti-regime slogans.
Some Iranians believe that the poisonings could be an attempt to force the closure of girls’ schools as retaliation for students and women leading ongoing nationwide protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Jina Amini in the custody of the morality police. Just previously, there had been accounts of schoolgirls in multiple provinces being shown and threatened with sexually explicit content by security agents in mandatory classroom sessions in order to be discouraged from joining protests, leading to mass mental distress among female students.
The US and Germany have called for thorough investigations into the poisonings.
Azadeh is not the author's real name, which has been changed for personal reasons and safety concerns. Email them at
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