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Girls are being poisoned in Iran

A dark development directed at girls and women


Two Iranian women eat sandwich in the outdoor area of a restaurant in Tehran, Iran, on Jan. 24, 2023. Associated Press/Photo by Vahid Salemi

Girls are being poisoned in Iran
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Hundreds of girls were hospitalized in recent months in many cities across Iran in a series of gas poisonings, specifically occurring at girls’ schools.

NBC News reports that, “the poisonings have been going on for months and involved dozens of schools in a range of cities, forcing young students to be taken to the hospital after reports of smelling gas.” The Washington Post reports that, “Many of the suspected poisonings have been reported in Qom.” This city is an important conservative Shiite city, known as both a pilgrimage site and education center for devout Shiite Muslims. This indicates that the incidents are not haphazard. While NBC calls the poisoning incidents “deliberate,” the Post identifies them as “mysterious,” and the Associated Press warns that, “other girls could be poisoned apparently just for seeking an education.”

As of today, an official count highlights several hundred cases of poisoning—definitely over a 1,000—since November in more than 52 schools across Iran. The cases spread to at least 21 of Iran’s 30 provinces. After the Biden administration expressed “deep concerns about the poisonings” and called for a “thorough and complete” investigation, Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khameini was compelled to speak. He finally addressed the cases, and declared, “the perpetrators of this unforgivable crime should be sentenced to capital punishment.” Khameini’s statement came more than three months after the first reported incident.

However, Iran’s health minister—in a clear attempt to dilute the severity of the attacks—said the poison was “very mild.”

While so far the cases haven’t reportedly caused any deaths, attacking hundreds of schoolgirls by gas positioning cannot and shouldn’t be viewed as random.

This is arguably a deliberate assault against the future Iranian women, as evidenced with the horrific recent escalation of the cases. The poisoning attacks have now included female university students in various locations. Several dormitories reported, “chemical attacks targeting female students with poison gas.”

The target is clear: Iran’s girls and women.

Not only is the target of the attacks clear, but the message is loud and strong: Submit to the government and its Islamic rules or else.

Knowing how oppressive, controlling, and brutal the Iranian government actually is, I highly doubt that these incidents occurred without the regime’s awareness, if not overt approval. These attacks aim to serve as another intimidation against protestors who have taken to streets since September to protest the brutal death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman, who died at the custody of Iran’s morality police after they arrested her.

Not only is the target of the attacks clear, but the message is loud and strong: Submit to the government and its Islamic rules or else.

Back in December, the Iranian government sought to reduce tension in streets and gain some support, so it announced the abolishment of its Muslim morality police and declared it is now considering changes to mandatory hijab laws. However, that announcement appears to have been a mere political stunt, as Iran’s police reportedly continued intimidating women by texting them “regarding improper hijab” as a criminal offense. The regime is clear: Islamic rules will be preserved and the proper wearing of the hijab is still mandatory to all women even in their own cars. This is evidenced in how Mehdi Hajian, the spokesman of Iran’s Police, insisted in January that, “We believe that observing hijab is a legal and religious issue.”

The scene in Iran is so dark for Iranians in general and for women and girls in particular.

Many are appalled at the level of oppression women experience in the Islamic Republic of Iran and wonder: How can any regime find it appealing to treat women in such a way?

The bad news is that Iran’s dictators do not see their actions as oppressive of women, but rather as protecting their Islamic reign and as preserving Islam by following Allah’s rules and applying Muhammad’s commands. As I explained in an earlier column, Islamic texts are used by the Iranian Shiite regime to advance their brutal dictatorship. Oppressing women, in this particular way, has been happening for centuries, fueled by ancient texts deemed sacred by religious Islamic elites.

As it stands today, sadly, the subjugation of Iranian women and girls is not going away anytime soon.


A.S. Ibrahim

A.S. Ibrahim, born and raised in Egypt, holds two PhDs with an emphasis on Islam and its history. He is a professor of Islamic studies and director of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has taught at several schools in the United States and the Middle East, and authored A Concise Guide to the Life of Muhammad (Baker Academic, 2022), Conversion to Islam (Oxford University Press, 2021), Basics of Arabic (Zondervan 2021), A Concise Guide to the Quran (Baker Academic, 2020), and The Stated Motivations for the Early Islamic Expansion (Peter Lang, 2018), among others.


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