Horror as 1,200 university students ‘poisoned’ on eve of mass protest

Iranian authorities demolish the family home of Elnaz Rekabi

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A food poisoning outbreak has sickened 1,200 university students in Iran on the eve of anti-regime protests across the country, according to the Daily Telegraph. In outrage, students at Kharazmi and Arak universities, as well as four other institutions, threw the food into neighbouring streets, with the country’s national student union accusing authorities of deliberately poisoning people. 

In a statement, the union said: “Our past experiences of similar incidents at the Isfahan university negates the authorities’ reason for this mass food poisoning.”

Iranian officials have denied the accusation, blaming the outbreak on water-borne bacteria.

However, clinics in several poisoning-stricken colleges have shut their doors or claim to have run out of supplies to treat dehydration and other related food poisoning symptoms, suggesting that the outbreak may have been an intentional ploy to stymie the national protest movement.

It happened on the eve of a planned three-day strike across Iran and a rally in Tehran’s Azadi Square on Wednesday, increasing public pressure on the regime. 

Protesters had called for a nationwide strike following conflicting reports that the nation’s “morality police” had been shut down.

Iranian state media said the attorney general, Mohammad Jafar Montazeri, was not responsible for overseeing the force. Montazeri also said that the government was reviewing the law governing compulsory hijab, which was one of the issues that sparked the 10-week-long protests.

However, some authorities have since denied reports that the regime would disband the morality police force.

Though the Iranian attorney general claimed the morality police would be shut down, there was no confirmation of the closure from the interior ministry, which is in command of the morality police. 

A state broadcaster reportedly said: “No official in the Islamic Republic of Iran has confirmed the closure of the morality police.

“Some foreign media have tried to characterize the attorney general’s statement as the Islamic Republic’s withdrawal from its hijab (laws) and influenced by the recent riots.”

The activist HRANA news agency reported 470 people had been killed as of Saturday, including 64 minors. The religious force was behind the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in custody in September, triggering mass protests.

Rob Malley, the US special envoy on Iran, said the Joe Biden administration would take the necessary sanctions against Iran’s regime, adding Washington was more focused on Tehran’s decision to arm Russia in Ukraine and the repression of its internal protests than on talks to revive the nuclear deal.

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Mr Malley said: “The more Iran represses, the more there will be sanctions; the more there are sanctions, the more Iran feels isolated

“The more isolated they feel, the more they turn to Russia; the more they turn to Russia, the more sanctions there will be, the more the climate deteriorates, the less likely there will be nuclear diplomacy. So it is true right now the vicious cycles are all self-reinforcing.

“The repression of the protests and Iran’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine is where our focus is because that is where things are happening, and where we want to make a difference.”

The US director of national intelligence, Avril Haynes, said at the weekend there was clear evidence that Russia was seeking to deepen military cooperation with Iran.

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