A young woman lies in hospital after reports of poisoning at an unspecified location in Iran in this still image from video. Image Credit: REUTERS

TEHRAN: Dozens of Iranian schoolgirls across five provinces were hospitalised Saturday in a new wave of suspected poisoning attacks, local media reported.

Hundreds of cases of respiratory distress have been reported over the past three months among schoolgirls mainly in the holy city of Qom, south of Tehran, with some needing hospitalisation.

Tasnim and Mehr news agencies reported the latest spate of poisonings in the western Hamedan province, as well as Zanjan and West Azerbaijan in Iran’s northwest, Fars in the south and Alborz province in the north.

Dozens have been transferred to local hospitals for treatment, the reports said, adding all students were in generally good condition.

On Friday, President Ebrahim Raisi said he had asked the ministers of intelligence and interior to follow up on the poisoning cases, dubbing them “the enemy’s conspiracy to create fear and despair in the people”.

Foreign ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said a probe into the poisonings was “one of the immediate priorities of the government, to alleviate the concerns of the families and to hold perpetrators accountable”.

People gather around an ambulance outside a girls school after reports of poisoning in Fardis. Image Credit: Reuters

On Wednesday, at least 10 girls’ schools were targeted with poisoning attacks, seven in the northwestern city of Ardabil and three in the capital Tehran, according to media reports.

Last week, Iran’s deputy health minister, Younes Panahi, said the poisonings were aimed at shutting down education for girls.

The string of poisonings come more than five months into nationwide protests following the death in custody of Iranian Kurd Mahsa Amini, 22, who had been arrested for an alleged breach of strict dress rules for women.

Tehran says hundreds of people have been killed and thousands arrested in connection with the protests, which the authorities generally describe as “riots”.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on Friday blamed poisonings on Tehran’s enemies.

Raisi, speaking to a crowd in southern Iran on Friday in a speech carried live on state television, blamed the poisoning on Iran’s enemies.

“This is a security project to cause chaos in the country whereby the enemy seeks to instill fear and insecurity among parents and students,” he said.