Disturbing videos have circulated online which appear to show young girls gasping for air as they desperately try to force their way out of schools in Iran, amid a shocking spate of poisonings of children in the country.
In one chilling clip, shared by a BBC Persian journalist, dozens of schoolgirls are seen on the floor after running out of their classrooms, coughing and wailing in pain.
March 5, 2023. Fatemieh Art School in Hamedan.
Schoolgirls shout: “We don't want to die!”pic.twitter.com/ssF6a0YYUt
The horrifying footage comes as officials in the country put the number of schoolchildren affected by poisonings at more than 5,000.
The attacks have targeted mainly female pupils since they were first seen in late November, with many rushed to hospital and unverified videos showing packed emergency rooms.
The mystery poisonings have gripped Iran, triggering a wave of angry protests involving distressed parents and teachers and allegations of government complicity from human rights and opposition groups.
Theories around who is behind the series of horrifying attacks include that the authorities may be taking revenge on the girls for their role in the protests which have been ongoing for months.
The first cases were reported soon after the start of nationwide protests sparked by the death of Iranian Kurd Mahsa Amini, 22, following her arrest for allegedly breaching Iran's strict dress code for women.
There have also been suggestions that extremist religious groups are staging the attacks in an effort to get women and girls out of the classroom.
In the clip shared by the BBC's Parham Ghobadi of an unknown location, girls are seen rushing out of a building before sitting on the floor, where they cling on to one another as they struggle to breathe.
Another horrifying video appears to show girls fighting their way out of a school in the Western city of Hamadan.
Shared by anti-government activist group 1500 Tanvir, the post says that the girls, from the Fatemieh Art School, are shouting ‘We don't want to die' as they push their way past people trying to stop them leaving.
They also shared a video of a little girl collapsing as she is lifted into an ambulance, claiming that ‘many students fainted' and that protesting families were taken away by police.
Further videos seemingly show a packed emergency room in a hospital with distressed family members desperately seeking help for their daughters.
Another clip, shared by human rights activists, was filmed by a woman who alleges that security forces in the northern city of Rasht had fired tear gas at mothers protesting at the local education department there.