February 28, 2023

Poisoning of female students, strikes, lawsuits and more

Week of February 27th, 2023 | Iran Unfiltered is a digest tracking Iranian politics & society by the National Iranian American Council 

Mass Poisonings of Female Students Deemed Deliberate

In recent months, chain poisonings have targeted many girls and women at schools across Iran. During Iran’s protests in December, Isfahan University of Technology first reported poisonings, followed by other universities and schools. Most cases of poisoning in the past few months have been reported in girls’ schools. It is still unclear precisely what substances have triggered the illnesses, though malicious intent is suspected.

It has been reported that poisonings have occurred in 40 schools in Qom city alone, and at least 800 students have been treated in medical centers for poisoning symptoms. According to the latest reports on these poisonings, in the past two days, several girls’ high schools in Qom, Qazvin, Borujerd, and Tehran were poisoned.

These poisonings have been reported to cause lethargy, throat burning, and dizziness, with no definite cause. Some of them experienced dizziness and lethargy due to a “tangerine-like smell.” In November 2022, a number of students from Isfahan University of Technology visited the clinic with symptoms such as heartburn, diarrhea, and vomiting. According to the university’s president, 270 students were poisoned at first, but eventually 600 were affected. The poisoning of 18 students of the Noor Girls’ Conservatory in Yazdanshahr, Qom, was reported on November 30, 2022. Symptoms of shortness of breath and numbness in the arms and legs were experienced by these students. On December 13, 2022, the same thing happened again in the same school, and 51 female students were hospitalized. In an announcement, Qom Education’s Public Relations Department stated that experts are investigating the cause of the poisoning.

Students at Kharazmi University of Karaj suffered from mass food poisoning on December 1, 2022. According to the report of the country’s students’ trade union council, “a large number of students of this university got poisoned and suffered nausea, body aches, fever and chills due to the consumption of food the previous night.” According to the Chief Justice of Alborz Province, 160 students were affected. ISNA news agency announced that in less than 10 days, more than 1,200 students from various schools went to medical centers with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, heartache and dizziness. 

Mohammad Taqi Fazel Meybodi, a Shia cleric, said in a conversation with “Shabake Sharq” that these poisonings were intentional. He added: “It is true that this incident was intentional.” Meybodi attributed the serial poisonings in schools to a fundamentalist group called the Hezareh Gara, or Millennialists. According to this group and thinking, girls should not study until the third grade or should not study at all. 

“It is a religious and anti-modernity current,” Mohammad Taghi Fazel Meybodi added. He also mentioned that a sociologist in Qom has done research in this field and warned that it is not an accident that these poisonings occur. “There is a similarity between the Millennialists and the Taliban, except the Taliban do not allow girls to attend university, but this group believes that girls should study until the third grade. The government and security institutions should follow this trend and clarify the issue for the people.”

According to Yunus Panahi, deputy director of research and technology at the Ministry of Health, “After several poisonings in Qom schools, people wanted all schools closed.” The Attorney General of the country, Mohammad Javad Montazeri, in a letter to the Public Prosecutor and the Qom Revolution, raised the possibility of deliberate criminal actions.

Worker purchasing power is reduced by 40%

Workers’ wages in 2005 and 2006 were $183 and $220 (US dollars) per month, respectively, and $264 in 2006. From 2008 to 2010, this amount reached $307, $356 and $358 per month, respectively. As sanctions were imposed in 2011, this amount declined to $211 dollars, and in 2012, with the escalation of inflation and the peak of sanctions, this amount fell to $148. In 2014 to 2017, the dollar value of workers’ monthly wages reached $260 to $300 as inflation decreased and the effects of sanctions were reduced. In 2018 to March 2023, this amount has sharply declined to around $115 to $163 dollars, but this amount has been reduced once more with the start of sanctions, currency inflammation, and inflation escalation.

In general, if we measure the welfare of the workers by the exchange rate, the purchasing power of the workers has decreased by 40% over the past 18 years, and compared to the years when the country wasn’t facing currency fluctuations and high inflation, it has decreased by 55%.

Political Prisoners of the Pahlavi era try to sue former SAVAK leaders

An online petition letter was published by political prisoners of the Shah’s era seeking accountability for torture under the Shah’s government. More than 100 political prisoners under the Pahlavi government including Behrooz Khaligh, Nasim Khaksar, Monireh Baradaran, Ebrahim Avakh signed the petition. This follows the public appearance of Parviz Sabeti, a former deputy chief of the SAVAK, at a rally in solidarity with protests in Iran which stoked controversy. The letter states “the fact that a hated figure like Parviz Sabeti, the head of the third department of SAVAK, has appeared in solidarity gatherings of Iranians with people’s protests in recent days and even shows his presence shamelessly sends an ominous message: Normalizing crime and breaking the stigma of torture and murder.”

There was also a wave of appreciation among royalists for Sabeti’s “security position,” with some calling for the revival of SAVAK on social networks. 

The petition goes into detail on the crimes committed by SAVAK, stating “Parviz Sabeti represents SAVAK’s power during a time when torture was systematized and turned into a skill for which torturers were called ‘doctors.’ Sabeti is also the creator of the televised confession method. It was he who made the decision to kill prisoners sentenced to prison without their own fair trial.”

The letter continues, In 1975, he was directly involved in the murder of nine political prisoners in the hills of Evin. When the 1979 revolution erupted, Parviz Sabeti fled the country before the Shah himself. SAVAK was so hated that the shaky system decided to dissolve it. The SAVAK system and its work did not end with this event, however. Khomeini’s regime continued and then expanded and amplified the SAVAK tradition of forced confessions, torture, and extermination of opponents. A part of the SAVAK system was put to work for the Islamic government’s security system. For the same reason that they fought against the Shah’s regime, the SAVAK cases helped to follow the fighters who fought against the Khomeini regime. Many of those buried in Khavaran were once prisoners of Parviz Sabeti’s security apparatus and bore the whip wounds of Savak torturers.”

New Restrictions for Mir Hossein Mousavi and Zahra Rahnavard

The restrictions imposed on Mir Hossein Mousavi and his wife Zahra Rahnavard under house arrest have increased, according to several news sources close to him. Kalame, a telegram channel close to Mr. Mousavi, says these restrictions were imposed suddenly on Sunday afternoon, February 26th. These restrictions, which were imposed in the thirteenth year of house arrest, are the result of Mr. Mousavi’s recent positions calling for a referendum. Ardeshir Amir Arjomand also tweeted about these new restrictions. 

Mir Hossein Mousavi recently announced a new political strategy by calling for a constitutional referendum in an open letter. According to Mousavi, the slogan “execute the Constitution,” hoped for thirteen years ago, no longer works in light of the new situation in the country after more than 100 days of citizens’ protests. There must be a step beyond that, he says. 

Dozens of Isfahan smelter workers arrested, Haft Tape workers are on strike

Security forces and special guards attacked a protest gathering of #Zob_Ahn complex workers in Isfahan and arrested dozens of protesters. As a result of this announcement, the Free Workers’ Union announced that the phones of the detained persons were turned off and no one knew their condition.

On Saturday 6th of March, about 900 workers from Isfahan Iron Smelter protested in the blast furnace, rail, rolling, steelmaking, and cokemaking sectors. Among the demands of the protesters are an increase in wages and the implementation of the job classification plan. According to the Free Workers’ Union, the arrests occurred around 4:00 a.m. Sunday, when gatherings decreased.

Sugar cane workers in Haft Tepe are on strike for a second day. 

Two days in a row, employees of Nishkar Haft Tepe complex gathered in front of the company’s management building to demand salary equality. Workers at Haft Tepe have said they will continue to gather until their demands are met. Among other things, they want to determine seasonal colleagues’ assignments and have organizational houses.

Amir Abdollahian says that Iran and the US are not far from an agreement on revitalizing the JCPOA

Referring to a “message” from American officials that was allegedly carried by the Iraqi foreign minister, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said in a television interview that “if the American side is realistic, we are not far from an agreement.” After his recent trip to Baghdad, Abdullahian stated in an interview with Al-Alam that the Iraqi Foreign Minister “carried a message from America” after returning from his trip to Washington.

The foreign minister said: “Mr. Fawad Hossein, who returned from his trip to Washington, carried the message that the American side is ready to conclude the agreement. We have always welcomed the path of diplomacy and negotiation and have not distanced ourselves from the negotiation. 

U.S. officials, however, have not shared the same sense of optimism expressed by Abdollahian. In recent months, they have indicated that Iran nuclear talks are not the priority and not on the agenda, at least in the near term.

“Iran’s” son “Pirouz” has died

In the early hours of Tuesday, Pirouz, a cub who was kept in Pardisan Park in Tehran and became a symbol for saving Iranian (Asiatic) cheetahs, passed away. In the last few months, Pirouz, the only survivor of the birth of the Asiatic cheetah called “Iran”, has become a symbol of the nationwide protests in Iran. As concerns about his kidney failure and his physical condition increased in the last few days, social networks were filled with messages regarding him.

Pirouz was born in May of last year along with two other cheetah cubs by cesarean section to a female cheetah named Iran. Only “Pirouz” had survived. Asiatic cheetahs are now only found in Iran, and are critically endangered. Iran’s environmental approach has been harshly criticized, including its years-long imprisonment of environmentalists from the Persian Heritage Wildlife Foundation who had tracked Asiatic cheetahs in the wild. The group’s founder, Kavous Seyed-Emami, died in prison under mysterious circumstances. 

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