The Iranian parliament

Commotion In Iran’s Parliament Over School Poisoning Attacks

Monday, 03/06/2023
Maryam Sinaiee

A British Iranian journalist and political analyst and a regular contributor to Iran International

Iran's Parliament sunk into commotion Sunday as a lawmaker tried to stop another one from voicing his constituents’ anger over the so-called ‘chain’ school poisonings.

During a session for examining next year’s budget bill, Seyed Ghani Nazari, the representative of Khalkhal in northwestern Ardabil Province, used his time to speak about his constituents’ anger over the poisoning of schoolgirls in his district.

An ultra-hardliner member of the National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Javad Karimi Ghodousi, who was standing behind Nazari, kept interrupting him while other lawmakers also shouted to drown his voice. Speaker Mohammad-Bagher Ghalibaf also intervened, asking Nazari to only speak about the budget bill.

“Mr Ghalibaf, what do you expect me to talk about when students were hospitalized in Khalkhal? It’s my duty to demand the government and responsible bodies to investigate. My phone has been ringing since morning and people are asking me to pursue the matter,” Nazari said as other lawmakers joined in the dispute, shouting and gathering around Nazari.

Ghodousi later alleged that those who speak about the poisoning incidents could be “adding fuel to the enemy’s fire”.

The parliament has established a working group to investigate the incidents of mysterious poisonous gas attacks on girls’ schools that have now spread to around 100 cities.

Poisoning of students was reported in at least 80 more schools across the country Sunday.

Hardliners and government officials are increasingly attributing the gas attacks to “students’ pranks” or “enemies of the Islamic Republic”.

Authorities have yet not offered any report on the incidents or on findings based on samples taken from over 1,500 students who have been hospitalized since the first incident took place in the religious city of Qom on November 30.

The ultra-hardliner Kayhan newspaper whose chief editor Hossein Shariatmadari is an appointee of the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Saturday claimed that opposition groups such as the Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK) have been perpetrating the attacks on behalf of foreign enemies and casting the blame on religious groups in Iran or the government.

“It’s worthy of note that certain western governments and intelligence services have a long history of committing crimes and blaming others for them including the chemical attacks by their Sunni extremist mercenary groups in Syria for which they blamed the Syrian government. The CIA and Mossad have committed many acts of biological terror,” Kayhan wrote.

However, such claims are countered by citizens that how the ‘enemy’ is able to conduct such widespread attacks if the government has control over the country.

The IRGC-linked Fars News Agency on Sunday claimed that experts believe pranks by teenage students or “mass phobia” are the most likely explanations for the mysterious poisonings.

Given the highly synchronized nature of the attacks, many in Iran accuse the government of having a direct role in the poisoning of schoolgirls, as revenge for their rejection of the hijab and their active role in the Woman, Life, Freedom protests in the past few months. Even if some fundamentalist groups are behind the chemical attacks the government stands accused of covering up their crime.

“People from inside the system must be collaborating with the perpetrators,” wrote Abbas Akhoundi, a roads and urban development minister in Hassan Rouhani’s government, in Shargh newspaper Saturday.

Some medical experts such as Dr. Mohammadreza Hashemian, an official of Masih Daneshvari Hospital in Tehran where many of the victims have been treated, have pointed out that the gases suspected of being used by the attackers seem to be composed of various chemicals that are not accessible to ordinary people.

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