Protests have broken out in Iran’s capital Tehran after hundreds of girls were suspected to have been poisoned in dozens of schools.
Parents gathered outside an education ministry building in the western part of the city on Saturday, which turned into an anti-government demonstration.
“Basij, Guards, you are our Daesh,” protesters chanted, likening the Revolutionary Guards and other security forces to the Islamic State group.
Similar protests are understood to have been held in two other areas in Tehran and other cities including Isfahan and Rasht.
The protests come as Iran‘s interior minister said on Saturday that investigators found “suspicious samples”.
“In field studies, suspicious samples have been found, which are being investigated… to identify the causes of the students’ illness, and the results will be published as soon as possible,” the minister, Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, said in a statement carried by the official news agency IRNA.
Schoolgirls in more than 30 schools in at least ten of Iran’s 31 provinces have become ill in recent months.
Social media videos show pupils being taken to hospitals by ambulance or bus, while other children are taken home by parents gathered outside schools.
Other online posts appear to show girls who report suffering heart palpitations, nausea and headaches.
The country’s health minister says the girls suffered from “mild poison” attacks, with officials blaming Tehran’s enemies.
But some politicians have suggested the pupils may have been targeted by hardline Islamist groups opposed to girls’ education.
The United Nations human rights office in Geneva called for a transparent investigation into the suspected attacks, with several countries including Germany and the US voicing concern.
Iran rejected the “hasty reactions” with a spokesman for its foreign ministry telling state media on Friday: “It is one of the immediate priorities of Iran’s government to pursue this issue as quickly as possible and provide documented information to resolve the families’ concerns and to hold accountable the perpetrators and the causes.”
The suspected mass poisoning comes after of anti-government protests sparked by the death in September of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of the morality police who enforce strict dress codes.
Schoolgirls took part in the anti-government protests that started in September.
They removed mandatory headscarves in classrooms, tore up pictures of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and called for his death.