Raisi did not say who the enemies were, although Tehran usually accuses the US and Israel of cracking down on it.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has blamed a wave of poisonings of hundreds of schoolgirls across the country on Tehran’s enemies.
The hitherto unexplained poison attacks on more than 30 schools in at least four cities began in November in Iran’s holy city of Qom, prompting some parents to pull their children out of school.
Iran’s health minister said on Tuesday that hundreds of girls have been affected in several schools and some politicians have suggested that religious groups opposed to girls’ education could be targeting them.
Raisi, who addressed a crowd in southern Iran in a speech broadcast live on state television on Friday, blamed Iran’s enemies for the poisoning.
“This is a security project to create chaos in the country, with the enemy trying to instill fear and uncertainty in parents and students,” he said.
He did not say who those enemies were, although Iranian leaders usually accuse the United States and Israel of cracking down on them.
Separately, a senior Iranian official said a fuel tanker found next to a school in a suburb of Tehran, which had also been spotted in two other cities, was likely involved in the poisonings.
Authorities seized the tanker and arrested the driver, said Reza Karimi Saleh, the deputy governor of the Pardis suburb.
Saleh is the first government official to report an arrest in connection with the wave of poisonings.
He said the same tanker had also traveled to Qom and Borujerd, in western Iran’s Lorestan province, where students also suffered poisoning. He did not elaborate further.
“Security guards at a parking lot where the fuel tanker was parked also suffered poisoning,” Saleh said, referring to the Pardis site.
Calls for investigation
In Geneva, the United Nations Human Rights Office on Friday called for a transparent investigation into the attacks.
“We are deeply concerned about these allegations that girls are being deliberately targeted under apparently mysterious circumstances,” Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, told a briefing.
She said the findings of a government investigation should be made public and the perpetrators brought to justice.
Joining international calls, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said the reports were shocking and should be fully investigated.
“Girls should be able to go to school without fear,” Baerbock said on Twitter. “This is nothing less than their human right. All cases must be fully investigated.”
The spokesman for the US State Department had called on Iran on Wednesday to investigate cases of poisoning in schools.
Some Iranian politicians have suggested that the schoolgirls could be targeted by religious groups opposed to girls’ education.
Social media posts are full of photos and videos of hospitalized girls. Some said they felt nauseated and experienced palpitations. Others complained of headaches or palpitations. The messages could not be verified.
Schoolgirls have also taken part in anti-government protests sparked by the death in custody of an Iranian Kurdish woman last September. They have taken off their compulsory hijabs in classrooms, ripped up pictures of Supreme Leader Ali Hosseini Khamenei and called for his death.
An online video from last year shows schoolgirls waving their headscarves in the air and harassing a member of Iran’s Basij paramilitary force.