More than 1,000 university students appear to have been poisoned ahead of massive anti-regime protests to be held across Iran this week.
According to ISNA, an Iranian news agency, 1,200 students at the universities of Kharazmi and Ark fell ill on Monday due to vomiting, severe body aches and hallucinations. Similar illnesses were reported by at least four other universities.
Iran’s Ministry of Science confirmed that the students had been stricken with food poisoning, which led them to protest by dumping their trays of food on the street. Video footage posted online this weekend shows row after row of plastic bags of canteen food on the ground outside Ark University, while videos on social media show long rows of trays snaking or piling up on the sidewalks.
The Iranian regime has been accused of deliberately poisoning students to thwart their latest protest, while authorities have blamed accidental food poisoning linked to an outbreak of waterborne bacteria. Reports of illness also surfaced on Saturday, including at Isfahan University of Technology.
A statement from the national student union said: “Our past experience with similar incidents at Isfahan University denies the authorities’ rationale for this mass food poisoning”.
The union claimed that college clinics are closed or suddenly run out of electrolytes, making it more difficult to treat dehydration – a common symptom of food poisoning. Meanwhile, female students at some universities have been told to stay in their dormitories.
Iranians have called for an intensified three-day period of national strikes and protests that began Monday.
It came as a state broadcaster denied reports that the regime had dropped its “morality police”, the religious enforcers whose alleged murder of student Mahsa Amini, 22, had sparked the massive protest movement.