- Almost 700 girls have been poisoned by toxic gas in Iran since November.
- More than 1 000 students have been affected since November.
- Some pupils and parents suggested that schoolgirls may have been targeted for taking part in recent anti-government protests.
Iranian authorities arrested four people Thursday in connection with an assault on a woman outside a girls’ school targeted in a wave of poisoning attacks, a news agency said.
Hundreds of cases of respiratory distress have been reported in the past three months among schoolgirls in what one government official said could be an attempt to force the closure of girls’ schools in the Islamic republic.
In the aftermath of one of the latest attacks, a video that went viral on social media appeared to show a man assaulting a woman outside a school in Tehran. AFP could not immediately verify the footage.
“Four people were arrested over the incident in which a woman was beaten in front of the Aban 13 School,” Tasnim news agency reported.
Tehran’s police force, in a statement, distanced itself from the case, saying “members of the police had no role, either directly or indirectly, in the incident”.
Military prosecutors in Tehran said in a separate statement that they had opened an investigation into the attack on the woman.
“All the armed forces personnel are obliged to comply with the laws, sharia rules and moral limits in dealing with citizens… and any violation in this regard will be dealt with legally,” the statement said.
Iran’s Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi also called on Tehran’s police force to look into any inappropriate treatment of the woman seen being attacked in the video.
President Ebrahim Raisi ordered Vahidi to provide him with “continuous information on the investigation results” into the poisoning attacks to “allay the concerns of the families” of the affected students.
On Wednesday, according to media reports, at least 10 girls’ schools were targeted with poisoning attacks, seven in the northwestern city of Ardabil and three in the capital.
Last week, the deputy health minister, Younes Panahi, said the poisonings are aimed at shutting down education for girls.
The poisonings come more than five months into protests that spread across Iran after the death in custody of 22-year-old Iranian Kurd Mahsa Amini following her arrest for an alleged violation of the country’s strict dress code for women.
Tehran says hundreds of people have been killed and thousands arrested in connection with the protests, which the authorities generally describe as “riots”.