Iran’s government has admitted that hundreds of girls from across Iran have been poisoned since November in an attempt to prevent them from going to school.
Around 700 girls have been exposed to toxic gas, with some being hospitalized as a result, according to BBC.
The case come as widespread unrest continues in Iran following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died after she was detained by “morality” police over allegedly breaking the hijab law.
The first case was reported at the Nour Technical School in the religious city of Qom in November, where 18 students were taken to the hospital.
At least 26 girl schools in Iran have been targeted, according to human rights’ organizations.
Girls have reported “inhaling a smell similar to the smell of fruit” before feeling nauseous and falling ill.
Videos on social media showed ambulances outside of schools and girls laying down on stretchers.
“I have two daughters. Two daughters… and all I can do is not let them go to school,” a father said in one video, according to BBC.
On Sunday, February 26, the Iranian health minister deputy, Younes Panahi, finally acknowledged the case.
“After several poisonings of students in Qom schools, it was found that some people wanted all schools, especially girls’ schools, to be closed,” Pahani said, according to local media.
However, the government has made no comments indicating a chemical attack, and some officials have even denied it.
“Officials are giving contradictory statements… one says it is intentional, another says it is security-linked and another official blames it on schools’ heating systems,” a senior cleric told local media, according to Reuters.
Some parents have speculated their daughters are being targeted for participating in recent protests.
This is not the first time that girls have been subjected to a chemical attack.
In 2014, women in Isfahan who violated Iran’s dress code were attacked with acid.