March 1, 2023 | Flash Brief

Poisoning of Schoolgirls in Iran Under Investigation

March 1, 2023 | Flash Brief

Poisoning of Schoolgirls in Iran Under Investigation

Latest Developments 

After months of ignoring evidence that an unknown toxic gas was poisoning girls’ schools throughout Iran, President Ebrahim Raisi called for the Interior Ministry to investigate the incidents. The announcement came after Iranian officials began publicly acknowledging in recent days that the incidents appear to be a deliberate effort to stop girls from attending school.

The perpetrators of the poisonings remain unknown, but local media outlets suspect that individuals or groups supporting the regime are retaliating against girls who protest Tehran’s policies on head coverings for women. The poisonings began two months after nationwide protests — in which young women have played a leading role — erupted throughout Iran following the killing of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini at the hands of the country’s morality police for allegedly wearing the mandatory hijab improperly.

Expert Analysis

“The attacks are sophisticated, organized, widespread, and targeted. These characteristics in a society like Iran, heavily oppressed and closely watched by the security forces, imply that the military-security apparatus is most likely behind it.”Saeed Ghasseminejad, FDD Senior Iran and Financial Economics Advisor

Hundreds of Girls Poisoned

The first poisonings reportedly occurred in late November among 18 schoolgirls and staff at the Nour Technical School in the religious center of Qom, approximately 80 miles southwest of Tehran. The girls went to the hospital with symptoms that included headaches, heart palpitations, respiratory problems, nausea, dizziness, lethargy, and inability to move, according to media reports. The same school experienced another round of poisonings on December 13.

In total, poisonings at 30 more girls’ schools in the surrounding provinces have occurred, with almost 700 girls poisoned since November, according to the BBC. In the past week, 194 girls have reportedly suffered poisoning at four schools in the city of Borujerd in the province of Lorestan. The Center for Human Rights in Iran reported on Tuesday that the regime is trying to cover up the death of an 11-year-old girl whose father is the driver of Majid Talkhabi, a well-known cleric and a member of the governing body that appoints Iran’s supreme leader. No other known deaths have occurred as a result of the poisonings.

Regime Ignored Attacks

As evidence of the poisonings mounted last year, Iran’s Education Minister Youssef Nouri originally dismissed the reports as “rumors.” Angry parents protested in front of Qom’s governor’s office demanding answers after another poisoning on February 14 sent 117 students to the hospital. During a press conference on Sunday, Iranian Deputy Health Minister Younes Panahi said that after “several poisonings of students in Qom schools, it was found that some people wanted all schools, especially girls’ schools, to be closed.”

Related Analysis

Mapping Protests in Iran,” by Mark Dubowitz

UN Votes to Remove Iran From Women’s Rights Commission,” FDD Flash Brief

Iran Hangs Two Protesters While 109 Face Prospect of Execution,” FDD Flash Brief


Iran Iran Human Rights Iran Politics and Economy