As the United States calls the chemical gas poisonings on girls’ schools ‘unconscionable,’ demands are growing on international bodies to investigate the incidents.
US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said the poisonings across the country, now affecting dozens of schools and university dormitories since November, must be "stopped immediately".
Referring to speculations about the regime’s intention to take revenge on schoolgirls for their participation in the protests ignited after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in custody of morality police, Price told a news conference, “If these poisonings were found to be related to women and girls’ participation in protest, then it would be within the mandate of the UN’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Islamic Republic of Iran to investigate.”
Price said that bodies such as the UN must demand answers as little information has so far been forthcoming from authorities in Iran.
"There is a fact-finding mechanism within the UN itself... If it is determined that there was a motive at play and an effort to suppress the ambitions, the abilities of women and girls in Iran, we do think it would be appropriate for that particular body to – within their mandate to investigate.”
He said the US is alarmed by how Iranian authorities are handling the issue, mentioning the arrest of a prominent journalist, Ali Pour-Tabatabaei, for investigating the poisonings. On Tuesday, the Islamic Republic’s Judiciary also announced lawsuits against three media outlets and three individuals for speaking out about the attacks, accusing them of "spreading rumors and lying" about the poisonings.
“We’re also alarmed by reports that Iranian authorities have intimidated parents, that they have intimidated medical professionals into silence. The entire world is greatly concerned about these poisonings. Iranian authorities should cease suppressing the media and allow them to do their jobs,” Price stated.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre echoed Price's sentiments on Monday. She said, "The possibility that girls in Iran are being possibly poisoned simply for trying to get an education is shameful, it's unacceptable. If these poisonings are related to participation in protest then it is well within the mandate of the UN independent international fact finding mission on Iran to investigate."
On Tuesday, 20 prominent Iranian lawyers and human rights advocates issued a joint letter, calling on the WHO, the UNESCO, the UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross to immediately visit Iran and probe into the serial poisoning of schoolgirls. They urged the bodies to use all tools within their mandate to ensure that these incidents are promptly and transparently investigated in accordance with international standards and that the perpetrators are identified and prosecuted.
The lawyers also called for solutions for special support for the affected female students. There are conflicting reports about the number of schools, girls, and cities affected by the attacks, not least, due to the suppression of both free media and internet access across the country.
On Monday, Iranian member of the parliament Mohammad-Hassan Asafari claimed that more than 5,000 students in 25 provinces and about 230 schools have been targeted by the poisonous gas attacks which began in Qom on November 30. The Islamic Republic authorities have only vowed to pursue the matter but only prosecuted those who reported or protested against the attacks.