Iran’s Khamenei calls poisonings of girls ‘unforgivable’ amid public outcry


Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran.
Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, FileIranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran, Iran.

Victims of the mysterious poisonings report symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea, and vertigo after detecting ‘unpleasant’ odors

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Monday said the poisonings of schoolgirls were “unforgivable” and that those responsible should face “severe punishment,” amid public anger over a wave of mysterious suspected attacks across multiple schools.

Over 1,000 girls from more than 52 schools have suffered poisonings since November 2022, according to state media and officials, with some politicians blaming religious groups opposed to girls’ education. Victims have reported symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea, and vertigo after detecting “unpleasant” odors – sparking calls for authorities to act and for some parents to pull their children out of school.  

The poisonings come at a critical time for Iran’s clerical rulers after months of protests since the death of Mahsa Amini while in the custody of Tehran’s morality police for flouting hijab rules.

“Authorities should seriously pursue the issue of students’ poisoning,” Khamenei was quoted as saying by state media. “If it is proven deliberate, perpetrators of this unforgivable crime should be sentenced to capital punishment.”

Judiciary chief Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei said Monday that anyone arrested for poisoning the schoolgirls would be put on trial and charged with “corruption on earth” – an accusation that would lead to the death penalty.

The poisonings were first reported in the holy Shiite Muslim city of Qom, before spreading to 25 of Iran’s 31 provinces. Authorities have accused the Islamic Republic’s “enemies” of using the attacks to undermine the clerical establishment. However, suspicions are mostly on hardline groups operating as self-declared guardians of their interpretation of Islam.

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