TEHRAN (Reuters) - International schools in Iran have shut their doors after hardline students stormed the British embassy last week, stoking ordinary Iranians’ fears that foreigners are about to pull out of the Islamic Republic ahead of a U.S. or Israeli-led attack.
Protesters stormed and ransacked Britain’s two diplomatic compounds in Tehran on Tuesday, prompting Britain to evacuate its staff from the country and expel Iranian diplomats from London.
The French school in Tehran is located on British embassy grounds and children were in class when the mob swarmed through the compound gates. Windows at the German school nearby were shattered in the attack, but the British school escaped the worst of the chaos after teachers sent pupils home early.
The schools have remained shut since, forcing hundreds of children to stay home. Foreign teachers and their families have left Iran, parents were told, though the French school hopes to resume lessons on Sunday, and Britain’s in the New Year.
“Where can I send my kids in the middle of the school year ... who is going to take care of them when I cannot leave my job in Iran?” asked a single mother with two children at the French school, which has 256 Iranian and foreign students.
Several European countries have recalled their ambassadors from Iran. The British embassy attack was triggered when London imposed financial sanctions after a U.N. report suggested Iran was pursuing nuclear weapons.
Britain says Tehran supported the attack, which has pushed ties to their lowest ebb since Iran severed diplomatic relations in 1989 over the publication of Salman Rushdie’s book ‘The Satanic Verses’.
Iran’s isolation over its nuclear ambitions, its claim to have shot down a U.S. spy drone in its airspace on Sunday and the British embassy attack are feeding ordinary Iranians’ fears.
“Many foreigners are leaving Iran ... I suspect that there will be military action ... we will become another Iraq,” said architect Mahsa Sedri, 35. “Obviously something is going on ... otherwise the foreigners would not leave Iran.”
Washington and Israel have not ruled out military action against Iranian nuclear facilities should diplomacy fail to resolve the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program, a position that has only hardened since the critical report by the International Atomic Energy Agency last month.
“We are going to be attacked ... I sense it ... I am pulling out my money from the bank to have cash in hand in case of an attack,” said government employee Hassan Vosughi. “I and all my friends have stockpiled goods at home.”
Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Ben Harding