Amid a wave of chemical attacks on schoolgirls across Iran, several teachers' and students' unions have called for nationwide protests on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Coordination Council of Iranian Teachers' Trade Associations issued a statement on Monday, demanding an “an end to biological repression and the threat to the lives of citizens, especially students."
The council urged a transparent and independent fact-finding mission comprised of civil, trade union and political activists along with a group of doctors and experts as well as human rights lawyers to thoroughly investigate the issue and publish the results to the public. The large scale of the attacks and number of affected students cast doubts on the regime’s argument that the assaults are the results of arbitrary actions by hardliners who are against girls’ education, read the statement.
The group had already issued statements about the March 7 gathering, calling on teachers and the people of Iran to stage rallies outside the parliament in Tehran and in front of the education department offices in other cities to demand action on school attacks.
Teachers are also distraught about their falling purchasing power amid a sharp decline of Iran’s currency and raging inflation. This will also be a part of their protest.
Describing the attacks as “bioterrorism,” the national teachers’ union also criticized the government for three months of denials. “There is strong suspicion that the purpose of the attacks is quashing the Woman, Life, Freedom movement by instilling fear among girls and their families,” the statement said while demanding Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and other top religious figures to condemn the attacks expressly and decisively.
Several other groups, including the Council of Freethinking Students of Iran and provincial guilds for teachers, also called for demonstrations to condemn the regime’s reluctance to act about the mass poisonings. The Council of Freethinking Students said that the gas attacks is the continuation of the regime project to indoctrinate students that started by “the introduction of Taliban ideology and employment of 20,000 mullahs into the education system as teachers."
"The tragedy of poisoning students by the rusty brains of lying and hypocritical authoritarian rulers, is an attempt to take revenge for the women, life, freedom uprising," added their statement.
There are other calls for protests to mark International Women's Day on Wednesday, with imprisoned journalist and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi urging more "street protests in Iran" over the poisoning of schoolgirls. In a post on her Instagram page Mohammadi called for "immediate practical action by all international human rights organizations and the United Nations" regarding the serial poisoning of students, especially girls. "Let's stop the crime against our girls with widespread protests and street presence across the country," she addressed the people of Iran.
Also on Monday, Iran's ruler Ali Khamenei finally spoke about the poisoning of schoolgirls, describing it as an "unforgivable" crime and denying any government role in the attacks. "Authorities should seriously pursue the issue of students' poisoning. This is an unforgivable crime... the perpetrators of this crime should be severely punished," Khamenei said.
If the attacks cease to happen from now on, it shows that the perpetrators are followers of Khamenei, strengthening speculations that they were acting following his remarks about “small punishment of youngsters” who took to the streets for anti-regime protests.