- More than 1000 schoolgirls have been poisoned in Iran
- Supreme Leader says criminals deserve death penalty
- After months of protests, the poison stirs emotions
DUBAI, March 6 (Reuters) – The poisoning of schoolgirls is an “unforgivable” crime that should be deliberately punished with death, Iran’s supreme leader said on Monday, amid public anger over a wave of suspected attacks on schools, state television reported.
More than 1,000 girls have been poisoned since November, according to state media and officials, with some politicians blaming religious groups opposed to female education.
The poisoning comes at a critical time for Iran’s clerical rulers after months of protests following the death of a young woman arrested by police for violating hijab rules.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted as saying by state television that “the authorities should seriously pursue the case of the poisoning of the students.” “If it is proven to be intentional, the perpetrators of this unforgivable crime should be sentenced to death.”
The poisoning, which began in the holy Shiite Muslim city of Qom in November, has spread to 25 of Iran’s 31 provinces, prompting some parents to take their children out of school to protest.
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Authorities have accused “enemies” of the Islamic Republic of using the attacks to undermine the clerical establishment. But suspicion has fallen on hardline groups who act as self-proclaimed defenders of their interpretation of Islam.
‘Women pay the price’
In 2014, people took to the streets of Isfahan after a wave of acid attacks aimed at intimidating women who violated the strict Islamic dress code.
For the first time since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, schoolgirls participated in protests following the death of Mahza Amini in moral police custody.
Some activists have accused the toxic establishment of revenge.
“Now Iran’s women are paying the price for fighting against compulsory hijab (veil) and have been poisoned by the clerical establishment,” tweeted Masih Alinejad, a leading Iranian activist based in New York.
Authorities downplayed the poisoning, fearing fresh impetus for protests. A judicial investigation is ongoing, although details of the findings have not yet been released.
State media reported that at least one boys’ school in the town of Borujert was targeted.
Additional reporting by Elwelly Elwelly, by Parisa Hafeezy; Editing by Toby Chopra and Andrew Cawthorne
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