US announces more sanctions on Iran over deadly crackdown on protests

FILE – Women protest the death of 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini who was detained by the morality police, in Tehran, Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. in this photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran. Iran said it executed two men Saturday, Jan. 6, 2023, convicted of allegedly killing a paramilitary volunteer during a demonstration, the latest executions aimed at halting the nationwide protests now challenging the country’s theocracy. (AP Photo/Middle East Images, File)

The Biden administration on Monday announced new sanctions against Iran related to serious human rights abuses against Iranian protesters who have been demonstrating against the Islamic regime since September.

The sanctions target Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the U.S. has designated as a terrorist organization, and an IRGC financial cooperative.

It is the ninth round of sanctions imposed by the U.S. on Iranian officials related to the violent crackdown on widespread protests sparked by the death of a 22-year-old Iranian-Kurdish woman in police custody. Mahsa Amini was allegedly detained for violating a law that requires women to wear headscarves in public.

The protests have grown into demonstrations calling for regime change. 

“The United States remains committed to supporting the Iranian people in their demands for human rights and other fundamental freedoms,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in a statement.

Individuals sanctioned by the U.S. include the commander of the IRGC forces responsible for at least three western Iranian provinces, Mohammad Nazar Azimi, and his deputy Kourosh Asiabani, who is responsible for the western Iranian province of Kermanshah.

The U.S. said some of the worst acts of violence by Iranian security forces have taken place in this region.

“In Javanrud, a town in Kermanshah province, IRGC troops used live ammunition, including from semi-heavy machine guns, to quell protests, killing and wounding dozens,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement. “The IRGC has shelled vehicles attempting to deliver blood bags to those wounded in local hospitals, preventing their delivery.”

The U.S. also announced it blacklisted the IRGC Cooperative Foundation and five members of its board of directors. The U.S. describes the foundation as an “economic conglomerate” that manages IRGC investments and presence in numerous sectors of the Iranian economy, including manufacturing and construction. 

The U.S. sanctions were announced in coordination with similar moves by the United Kingdom and the European Union. 

The U.K. on Monday announced sanctions against five Iranian individuals and two entities. The European Union imposed sanctions on 18 individuals and 19 entities. 

“Along with our partners, we will continue to hold the Iranian regime accountable so long as it relies upon violence, sham trials, the execution of protestors, and other means of suppressing its people,” Nelson said.

The Iranian government has responded to the four-month-long protests with live fire that has reportedly killed hundreds of people. It is also accused of torturing protestors who have been detained and beating people being arrested. In recent weeks, Iran’s government also has carried out executions of people involved in the unrest.

At least four individuals are reported to have been executed for participating in the protests. Their trials, sentencing and executions have all been criticized internationally.

The European Union commissioner for justice, Didier Reynders, said in a speech last week that Iran’s mass arrests and executions of protesters has likely caused the protests to decrease. 

“The crackdown has now moved to the courtrooms, where harsh sentences, including death sentences, are used as a tool of repression,” Reynders said, adding that nongovernmental organizations estimate that at least 500 people have died and 18,000 have been arrested. 

“Reports of abuse and mistreatment perpetrated against protesters while in custody are also a matter of serious concern,” Reynders continued. “The people of Iran, as anywhere else, have the right to peaceful protest. Fundamental rights must be respected in all circumstances.”

Tags Antony Blinken Iran Joe Biden

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