Iran's religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called for harsh punishment for those responsible for the latest wave of poisoning. "The perpetrators of this crime must be severely punished. There will be no amnesty for such people," the religious leader said, according to the state news agency IRNA. "The authorities must seriously investigate the case of the poisoned school children," said the head of state.
Khamenei, who has the final say in all strategic matters in Iran, commented for the first time on the nationwide wave of poisoning. He called it an "unforgivable crime". He further said: "The relevant authorities, intelligence services and law enforcement agencies should pursue and uncover the causes of this crime."
anger and outrage
The first cases of the mysterious poisoning were reported back in November. Iran's government assumes targeted attacks. Schools for girls are almost exclusively affected. Schoolgirls were being treated in hospitals across the country. Parents and relatives are outraged and angry, and there is still no official explanation. They accuse the authorities of failure and blame them. Doctors speak of gas poisoning.
Iranian media have reported more than 2,400 cases of poisoning in schools. This was the result of an evaluation of reports that appeared in the Iranian media from November to early March. There are currently no official figures from the authorities on the overall extent of the wave of poisoning. According to Iranian media reports, more than 100 schools in the Islamic Republic are affected. Observers also assume that there are unreported cases.
The White House in Washington called for a "credible and independent investigation". Those responsible must be held accountable, spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said. The poisoning of school girls in Iran is "unheard of". "Women and girls everywhere have a fundamental right to education," she said.
After reporting on the mysterious wave of poisoning, a journalist was also arrested. The newspaper journalist Ali Purtabatabai was arrested, the newspaper "Entekhab" reported on Sunday evening, citing his sister. The journalist worked in the religious stronghold of Qom, where the first cases of poisoning were reported months ago.
Criticism of his arrest came promptly. This does not contribute to the "demystification of the rumors and news," wrote reform politician and journalist Abbas Abdi on Twitter. It makes the rumors "even worse. I hope he will be released soon."