After nationwide protests erupted last year, resistance to Iran’s mandatory hijab law has exploded across the country. Women uncovering their hair an inch at a time.
900 schoolgirls have been poisoned by toxic gas on the 2nd of March 2023, in what many believe is a deliberate attempt to force their schools to shut. No girls have died, but dozens have suffered respiratory problems, nausea, dizziness and fatigue.
Hundreds of similar cases have been reported in the past three months among schoolgirls in Iran, with some needing hospitalisation. Most of the attacks are situated in the city of Qom, in the South of Teran.
The incidents began five months after the mass protests that erupted after the death in custody of a young Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, who was detained by police for allegedly failing to wear her headscarf ‘properly.’
The law mandates that women and girls aged 9 and over must cover their hair. The women of Iran say they are in favour of a “voluntary hijab.” They also say that they respect the rights of women who choose to wear scarves.
Some Iranians have speculated that the schoolgirls are being poisoned as “payback” for their role in the unrest, after social media was flooded with videos of schoolgirls ripping off their headscarves and chanting anti-establishment slogans. A criminal investigation has now been launched.
“It has become evident that some people want girls’ schools to be closed down” said Younes Panahi, Iran’s deputy health minister.
More than 10 girls’ schools have been poisoned since November 2022.
The poisoned girls have reported smelling htangerine or rotten fish before falling ill.
On 14 February, parents of the affected students had gathered outside of Qom’s governorate to “demand an explanation” from the authorities.
“This is a war!” Decaled a mother in Iran. “They are doing this to force us to sit at home. They want girls to stay at home.” A mother reports to BBC, Iran.
A judicial investigation into the incidents was ordered by Iran’s prosecutor general, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri as of last week.
Meanwhile, Ahmad Amiri Farahani, the member of parliament for Qom, denounced the suspected attacks as an “irrational act”, calling for the support of girls’ education.
Former Iranian reformist vice-president Massoumeh Ebtekar expressed contrition over the “repeat of the crime of poisoning girls” and called for “an end to misogynistic fanatics once and for all.”