LONDON: A group of 1,200 university students in Iran have been struck by a food poisoning outbreak on the eve of anti-regime demonstrations set to be held throughout the country, the Daily Telegraph reported.
The students at Kharazmi and Arak universities, as well as four other institutions, threw their provided food onto surrounding streets in protest, 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.”
Officials have blamed the outbreak on water-borne bacteria.
However, clinics in several affected universities have also closed or run out of supplies to treat dehydration and other associated symptoms of food poisoning, in a sign that the outbreak may have been a deliberate strategy to thwart the national protest movement.
It came as a three-day nationwide strike was due to begin on Wednesday, intensifying public pressure against the regime.
Meanwhile, Iranian authorities denied reports that the regime would disband the country’s morality police.
The religious force was behind the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in custody in September, triggering mass protests.
A state broadcaster 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.”
As more Iranian public figures show support for the protest movement, authorities on Monday closed two businesses belonging to former national football team star Ali Daei.
The ex-striker, who scored 109 international goals, said last week that he had faced threats after showing public support for the anti-regime movement.
A jewelry store as well as a restaurant belonging to Daei were closed during the move by authorities.
A state news agency said: “Following the cooperation with anti-revolutionary groups in cyberspace to disrupt peace and business of the market, a judicial order was issued to seal Noor Jewelry Gallery.”