Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader, demanded on Monday that those responsible for the “unforgivable act” be apprehended “without mercy” as public outrage grows.
The relevant authorities are undertaking a thorough investigation, according to deputy interior minister Majid Mirahmadi, who also appeared on state television. “Based on the intelligence and research measures of the intelligence services, several persons have been arrested in five provinces,” he said. He didn’t specify who was being held or give any other information about the reason.
According to Iranian state media and government sources, approximately 1,200 Iranian schoolgirls from at least 60 different schools have become unwell since November from what may have been chemical or biological attacks.
Although no other officials or media have reported such a high figure, one well-known Iranian politician asserts that up to 5,000 children have reported feeling ill at 230 schools, suggesting that the actual number may be far higher.
During the weekend, there was an increase in reports of poisonings, with students reporting a variety of strange smells resembling everything from paint to perfume to things burning. Some reported feeling numb, temporarily paralysed, or on the verge of passing out after the odours.
A wave of rage and demands for the government to take action has been brought on by the mysterious poisonings.
The first examples were reported shortly after the start of widespread demonstrations against the death of Iranian Kurd Mahsa Amini, 22, who was detained after allegedly breaking Iran’s strict dress code for women. This has caused worldwide concern and requests for an independent investigation.
Last week, President Ebrahim Raisi directed the interior and intelligence ministries to provide regular updates on the cases of poisoning, referring to them as “the enemy’s conspiracy to create fear and despair” among the populace.
“In less than five per cent of the students transferred to hospital, irritant materials were found which led to their ill-health,” the interior ministry stated in its latest update on Monday.