Iranian-American activist Masih Alinejad: Suspected poisoning a ‘terrorist attack’ on Iranian schoolgirls

Hundreds of cases of poisoning among schoolgirls have been reported in Iran.

Iranian authorities have announced an investigation into a series of suspected poison gas attacks on girls’ schools.

Hundreds of cases of poisoning have been reported among schoolgirls since November 2022. Dozens have been hospitalized. Thirty schools have been targeted in four cities, according to local media.

ABC News’ Linsey Davis spoke with Iranian-American activist Masih Alinejad, who was recently named one of Time Magazine’s Women of the Year, about the suspected poisonings, along with what’s coming in what she calls the “next phase” of the progressive revolution. against the Iranian regime.

LINSEY DAVIS: Masih, thank you so much for coming back again. So you just talked to a father who told you that his daughter was just poisoned. Just explain to us what they are going through.

MASIH ALINEJAD: First of all, I must say that this is a terrorist attack against schoolgirls. It is a revenge of the Islamic Republic against the brave girls. If you remember whoever led the revolution against the Islamic Republic removed their hijab. So, yes, I spoke to a father who is also a doctor, and he told me that he warned his daughter to go to school with a mask, because this series of poisoning attacks is happening for a while, started from the city of Qom , then Borujerd and now Tehran . It has more than 800 students in hospital and they are really scared. The girl told her father that half of the school was actually sent to hospital, not just 35. This is the statistic that the government is actually trying to sell to the media.

DAVIS: And we know that even the Iranian government has encouraged the Taliban in Afghanistan to allow girls and women to go to school and be educated. Why do we see this violation of girls who just want to be able to get an education?

ALINEJAD: Look, the Islamic Republic is behaving just like the Taliban. That actually, if you remember, the chemical attack in Boko Haram in Afghanistan happened by the Taliban and now by the Islamic Republic. So they all follow the same ideology. They are against school girls. They are against women. They hate women. So they are actually trying to create fear among schoolgirls to stop them from protesting. So that is why it is ironic that the Islamic Republic is trying to tell the rest of the world that we are against the Taliban because the girls are not allowed to go to school. The Islamic Republic cannot admit publicly that they are against the schoolgirls. But they use terror tactics to create fear among schoolgirls.

DAVIS: Really, what you’re talking about is government officials using their own religious interpretations and applying it to the masses, right? And it is something that we even see play out in this country when it comes to abortions, for example. I’m just curious, from your perspective as an activist, as a journalist, what this means. We are talking about these broad implications for people who only apply their specific mindset to their religious beliefs.

ALINEJAD: You know what? Here in America, when women took to the streets for the Women’s March or spoke out about abortion, none of the women were killed. Five hundred innocent protesters were killed by the Islamic Republic just because they protested the brutal death of Mahsa Amini and said we want to make decisions over our own bodies. So that’s why I think that women in America, women in the West, can now echo the voice of Iranian women, the voice of women in Afghanistan who are being kicked out of schools and are now being kicked out of school because of the chemical attack. So it is another thing that the Islamic Republic is now saying that the Minister of Education, that we should have an investigation into this matter. We need an external organization. We need the UN’s accountability mechanism to be involved. We need MSF to be on board and do an open investigation into this tragedy in Iran.

DAVIS: Earlier this month, you met with Iranian opposition leaders who spoke about the pro-democracy movement. Can you give us some sort of update?

ALINEJAD: Yes. This is the next phase of the revolution, the unique time in history where we see a sense of unity among oppositions within and without. And recently we unveiled a coalition at Georgetown University about part of this Democratic coalition. We are actually trying to have a political front line to meet the leaders of democratic countries and convince them that this is the time you have to recognize this progressive revolution. We come up with a charter based on human rights and ask the leaders of democratic countries to isolate the Islamic Republic and be ready to see an Iran without an Islamic Republic.

DAVIS: Masih, always a pleasure to have you here. We appreciate your activism, your enthusiasm, just your energy and your aura. Thank you.

ALINEJAD: Thank you. I will invite you to my beautiful country when Iran is free.

DAVIS: Thank you for that. We accept that invitation.

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