In December 2012, 37 Kurdish schoolgirls at the village of Shinabad near Piranshahr in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province, were not so lucky when their class heater caught fire. Photo: ISNA
By Ava Homa
As the parents of some of the 37 schoolgirls who were burned in a classroom fire in a Kurdish village in Iran a year ago plead for officials to improve school safety, another kerosene heater exploded at another elementary school of another Kurdish village.
Fortunately, there were no injuries from the explosion at the school in Kahrize Sheikhan, a village in Iran’s central Mahabad region with a population of 500. The school was immediately shut down and students were sent home.
In December 2012, 37 other Kurdish schoolgirls at the village of Shinabad near Piranshahr in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province, were not so lucky when their class heater caught fire. Two of the girls, Seyran Yeganeh and Sarina Rasoulzadeh, lost their young lives. All of their other classmates were injured, some suffering chronic burns.
Last week, their families gathered before the presidential palace in Tehran’s Pasteur Street, demanding that President Hassan Rouhani pay greater attention to the victims of unsafe schools.
The father of one of the victims, Nadia Saleh, complained that, “The hospital refuses to go ahead with my daughter’s surgery until I can provide the money they ask. The Ministry of Education had promised to pay for the costs but they have refused to do so.”
Since last year, the authorities have been informed of the unsafe heating systems at schools in Kurdish villages. No steps have so far been taken to replace the hazardous system.
Fariborz Esmaeilzadeh, the head of the provincial School Renovations body, announced that 600 classrooms in the province use kerosene heaters, and that “we lack the budget to purchase safe heating systems for these schools.”
There have been public calls for the education minister to take responsibility for the fires and resign.
Shahram Nazeri, a popular Kurdish singer, organized a fund-rising concert in August and sent the proceeds for treatment of the schoolgirls, but that has not been enough.
Lawyers say that the government must legally compensate the victims of the Shinabad fire, but that parents have been unwilling to file lawsuits because they are unaware of their rights or are content with official promises of compensation.