Harrowing videos are making rounds showing young girls gasping for air as they desperately try to force their way out of schools in Iran, amid attacks targeted mainly female pupils.
In one chilling clip, shared by a BBC Persian journalist, dozens of schoolgirls are seen on the floor after running out of their classrooms, coughing and wailing in pain.
The disturbing footage comes as officials in the country put the number of schoolchildren affected by poisonings at more than 5,000.
The school girls were allegedly poisoned by ‘religious groups who want them banned from classrooms’.
The mystery poisonings have gripped Iran, triggering a wave of angry protests involving distressed parents and teachers and allegations of government complicity from human rights and opposition groups.
Scores of schools have been hit by the suspicious attacks, with pupils suffering symptoms ranging from shortness of breath to nausea and vertigo after reporting ‘unpleasant’ odours on school premises.
Theories around who is behind the series of horrifying attacks include that the authorities may be taking revenge on the girls for their role in the protests which have been ongoing for months.
There have also been suggestions that extremist religious groups are staging the attacks in an effort to get women and girls out of the classroom.
Mohammad-Hassan Asafari, a member of the parliamentary fact-finding committee currently looking into the poisonings, told the ISNA news agency yesterday: ‘Twenty-five provinces and approximately 230 schools have been affected, and more than 5,000 schoolgirls and boys poisoned.’
Iran’s leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has since declared that those behind the poisoning of the schoolgirls should be sentenced to death if it is proven that the attacks were deliberate.