People holding placards protesting against the alleged poisoning by toxic gas of schoolgirls in Iran ahead of the International Women's Day Protest in London in Trafalgar Square, central London, Britain, 08 March 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/ISABEL INFANTES

Iran denies poisonings in girls’ schools, blames ‘enemies’

Tehran, Apr 29 (EFE).- Iran’s intelligence ministry denied that there had been any poisonous gas attacks in girls’ schools, blaming the incidents on students, mass hysteria and the country’s enemies.

A protester carries a poster showing a woman wearing a gas mask, reading 'Until the last breath. Woman, life, freedom' during an Iran protest rally on the occasion of the International Women's Day in Berlin, Germany, 08 March 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/CLEMENS BILAN

“Toxic substances have not been spread in any of the country’s schools, but non-toxic agents that have caused panic have been used inadvertently or intentionally in some reported settings,” the ministry said in a statement, state-run Mehr news agency reported Saturday.

The ministry said that these were the findings of an investigation into the alleged gas attacks that began in late November in the city of Qom, followed by similar incidents in Tehran, Kermanshah and Ardabil.

More than 100 girls’ schools were affected and some 13,000 students have received medical care with symptoms, such as coughing, difficulty in breathing, throat irritation, headaches, nausea and vomiting, according to nonprofit Amnesty International.

The intelligence ministry attributed the attacks to “stink bombs, pepper sprays, panic-inducing odorous agents, anti-security goals and mass hysteria agents,” Mehr agency reported.

The ministry also claimed that some students faked the symptoms “with the aim of playfulness, skipping classes and exams, and in a few cases, causing tumult and riots.”

It said that cyber networks within the country and outside it spread rumors to incite fear, school closures and protests by the students’ parents.

A significant number of such networks have been tracked and identified and those involved in them have been detained, it added.

The intelligence ministry also highlighted the “completely obvious and undeniable” role of the enemies in fueling the incidents, according to Mehr.

“A number of foreign politicians and foreign institutions and international organizations, who played the role of fueling the conflict, formed a link in the chain of the hybrid warfare,” it said.

The ministry also linked the incidents to nationwide protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini in police custody.

The young Kurdish woman was arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly not wearing her hijab properly in September and died in custody.

“There was an inverse relationship between the gradual decline of riots and the rapid rise of the incidents resulting in the publicization of the students’ infirmity,” the ministry said.

The school poisonings sparked fresh tensions in the country and some parents linked them to the protests in recent months, which had abated after a crackdown by the government. EFE