Suspected schoolgirl poisoning attacks rattle a shaken Iran

Over the past three months, hundreds of young girls attending different schools in Iran have become overpowered by what are believed to be noxious fumes wafting into their classrooms, with some ending up weakened on hospital beds, AP news reported.

Iranian authorities have confirmed they are investigating reports that schoolgirls have been poisoned as “revenge” for the role young women played in recent protests against the mandatory hijab.

The reported attacks come at a sensitive time for Iran, which already has faced months of protests after the September death of Mahsa Amini following her arrest by the country’s morality police.

The authorities have not named suspects, but the attacks have raised fears that other girls could be poisoned apparently just for seeking an education — something that’s never been challenged before in the over 40 years since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran itself also has been calling on the Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan to have girls and women return to school.

The schools affected only taught young women, fueling suspicion it wasn’t accidental. 

In a vote that highlights the fraught international politics of women’s rights, Iran was recently expelled from the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

There has been an American diplomatic campaign to see Iran stripped of its capacity to derive legitimacy from its participation in the world’s foremost body on women’s rights while leading a violent crackdown on a women-led protest movement within its own borders. 

This official justification offered by U.S. officials centered on the ways in which Iran’s presence undermined the credibility of the entire commission. 

The reasoning was supported by an influential group of high-profile Iranian activists and women’s rights organizations. 

The concept of women’s rights remains a political battleground in and of itself and is very far from becoming an organizing principle for political consensus in the region. 

The American campaign to strip Iran of CSW membership emerged against a backdrop of increased international attention on women’s rights, which focused on the demands of women protesters in Iran and successive Taliban directives banning women from universities and other sectors of public life. 

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