A large crowd gathered in downtown Vancouver to take part in a Global Rally to condemn a suspected poisoning targeting Iranian school girls.
The rally, held Sunday afternoon in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery, was organized by grassroots activist group We are Mahsa.
“All of the citizens around the world are supporting Iranian school girls. That’s why we are here to support them and show we are with them,” said Farnaz Adli, rally organizer.
For nearly four months, thousands of girls and women have reportedly been poisoned by some unknown substance, believed to be a chemical agent, in hundreds of schools across Iran.
It’s largely been viewed as an attempt to silence the voices of Iranian women and girls who have been at the forefront of the Women, Life, Freedom revolution in Iran.
Demonstrators and human rights activists are demanding an independent investigation.
“I describe this as a war taking place in Iran. A war on women by the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said Iranian-Canadian human rights advocate and founder of Stop Child Executions, Nazanin Afshin-Jam.
After months of downplaying the incidents, Iran’s Health Minister said the girls have suffered “mild poison attacks.”
Hardline president Ebrahim Raisi is now ordering an investigation.
Afshin-Jam said the Islamic Republic cannot carry a credible investigation on itself and that an international body, like the World Health Organization or the United Nations, for example, need to step in to conduct an impartial investigation.
On Twitter, UNICEF posted a statement, saying the international organization is ready to support children and families reportedly affected by school poisonings in Iran.
“The regime is trying to deflect blame and say it’s vigilant groups, but we activists are very skeptical and are convinced that they are to blame,” said Afshin Jam, “this is very organized and systematic operation. To orchestrate this across the country to over 200 schools, affecting over 1,000 elementary school girls and now expanding out to universities and girl dorm rooms takes a lot of planning and manpower.”
Afshin Jam added that the Islamic Republic has very sophisticated surveillance technology and have used this technology to arrest protestors later in their homes. She said the regime could easily find the perpetrators behind the suspected mass poisoning.
Medics, teachers, and parents are now accusing the Islamic Republic of silencing victims.
Teachers are rising up in cities across Iran, protesting against the regime, accusing them of acting like ISIS or the Taliban.
“The fight of Iranian women, especially women and girls, it’s a fight for humanity. That’s why I encourage all Vancouverites and all Canadians to join, because this is about us as humans,” said rally organizer Amir Bajehkian.
While parents in Iran are desperate for answers, activists in Vancouver say if these incidents of suspected poisoning of little girls doesn’t move the international community, they don’t know what will.