Mystery Gas Attacks Reported in Iran

Mystery Gas Attacks Reported in Iran

( – Since September 2022, Iran has been torn by a continuing wave of protests over the death of a young woman killed by the “morality police” for allegedly not wearing a hijab properly. Now the country’s hardline regime is facing a new problem. Since the start of April, dozens of girls’ schools have been attacked with gas bombs — and nobody knows who’s responsible.

On April 4, there was a mass casualty event at a school in the northern Iranian city of Tabriz. Twenty girls were hospitalized after succumbing to dizziness, headaches, and nausea. Now it seems there have been at least 103 similar incidents in Iran since last November; government officials and human rights activists say about 7,000 students — all female — have been poisoned. The only good news is that, so far, nobody has died.

There’s no doubt the poisonings are deliberate; although the Iranian government started out by denying the attacks were happening, in late February, the health ministry admitted they were. It also said police had found gas bombs concealed inside soft toys that had been planted in schools. Officials said the devices contained nitrogen gas, which isn’t toxic — but if enough of it is released in a confined space, it can cause asphyxiation.

So far, there’s no clue about who’s committing these attacks. Around 100 suspects have been arrested, but the incidents haven’t stopped. Some are blaming the Iranian regime, which is launching a new crackdown on women’s rights in the wake of protests against the September 2022 death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of religious police. However, in this case, that doesn’t seem likely.

Although the regime is hardline Islamist, it belongs to the Shia sect of Islam and doesn’t oppose women’s education the way Sunni extremists like the Taliban do. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called the attacks an “unforgivable” crime. The gas bombs could also have been planted by extremists from Iran’s small Sunni minority or by international Islamist terrorists; groups like al-Qaida have attacked Iran before.

No matter who is carrying them out, though, they are a clear assault on women’s rights in a country where those rights are already extremely restricted.

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