The White House said Thursday that the Biden administration does not know what is causing the apparent poisoning of schoolgirls in Iran and called on the Iranian government to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation.
“There is deeply troubling news coming out of Iran. This — what, what could be the poisoning of young girls just going to school,” said John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council. “The truth is we don’t know right now what caused these ailments. We’re seeing reports that the Iranian government is investigating, that’s the right thing to do.
“We want these investigations to be thorough and complete, and we want them to be transparent. Little girls going to school should only have to worry about learning. They shouldn’t have to worry about their own physical safety, but we do It just” doesn’t know enough right now,” he added.
Kirby would not say whether the US would consider sanctions in response to a deliberate poisoning. He also would not say whether the US would take the Iranian investigation at face value.
“Let’s see what the results are here first, before we make some sort of snap judgement,” he said. “We need to know, the world needs to know, certainly the families of the little girls need to know.”
Over the past three months, hundreds of young girls attending various schools in Iran appeared to have been overcome by what are believed to be noxious gases that poured into their classrooms, with some ending up weakened in hospital beds, government officials reported media and the Associated Press.
Officials in Iran’s theocracy initially dismissed these incidents but are now describing them as targeted attacks involving around 30 schools identified in local media reports, with some speculating they may be aimed at trying to close schools for girls in this country of over 80 million people, according to sate media.
On Sunday, Iran’s state news agency IRNA ran several stories that included officials acknowledging the scale of the crisis.
“After several poisonings of students in Qom schools, it was found that some people wanted all schools, especially girls’ schools, to be closed,” IRNA quoted Younes Panahi, a deputy health minister, as saying.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Pedram Pakaieen, said that the poisoning did not come from a virus or a microbe, but also not elaborated.
Ali Reza Monadi, a national member of parliament who sits on the education committee, described the poisonings as “intentional”.
“The existence of the devil’s will to prevent girls from education is a serious danger and it is considered very bad news,” he said, according to IRNA. “We must try to find the roots” of this.