April 4, 2023 | Flash Brief

New Chemical Attacks in Iran Hospitalize Schoolgirls

April 4, 2023 | Flash Brief

New Chemical Attacks in Iran Hospitalize Schoolgirls

Latest Developments

At least 20 Iranian schoolgirls were hospitalized today in the city of Tabriz after a new wave of chemical attacks, Iranian state media reported. The “vital signs … and the general condition of all students is good,” said Asghar Jafari, head of the city’s emergency service. In total, chemical attacks have poisoned thousands of Iranian schoolgirls since November 2022. Iran’s clerical regime is likely responsible for the attacks.

Expert Analysis

“The regime in Iran has poisoned the minds of its followers for decades. It has murdered thousands of Iranians including children who have taken to the streets to ask for liberty and dignity. It should come as no surprise that this murderous and ideologically toxic regime is complicit in directing or inciting these horrendous school poisonings.” Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“These attacks and the cover-up could not have happened without the permission and collaboration of the clerical regime itself. The United States and its allies should sanction top officials in the Islamic Republic’s interior and education ministries.” Saeed Ghasseminejad, FDD Senior Iran and Financial Economics Advisor

The Attacks

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. Still, it was only in March 2023 that the poisonings came to dominate the Iranian national psyche as the number of attacks increased and their geographical distribution spread.

Regime Denies Responsibility

The Islamic Republic 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 allegedly wearing her headscarf improperly. 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.

Nevertheless, as evidence of the poisonings mounted, 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 a poisoning on February 14 sent 117 students to the hospital. Ultimately, when 104 chemical attacks occurred on March 6 alone, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, acknowledged the problem, calling the poisonings “unforgivable crimes” that warrant “the most severe of punishments.”

Thousands of Victims

A comprehensive FDD analysis documents at least 275 attacks, 247 of which happened in March, spread across 139 cities and towns. FDD counts at least 1,742 student victims, though other sources have offered numbers as high as 7,000. It is likely that even more students were exposed to the poisons.

Related Analysis

Chemical Attacks on Iranian Students,” by Saeed Ghasseminejad and Mark Dubowitz

Who Is Poisoning Iranian Schoolgirls?” by Reuel Marc Gerecht and Ray Takeyh

Poisoning of Schoolgirls in Iran Under Investigation,” FDD Flash Brief


Iran Iran Human Rights Iran Politics and Economy