Middle East/North Africa

Treasury sanctions 7 Iranian leaders over violence against protestors, internet shutdown

Iran protests
Associated Press
In this Sept. 21, 2022, photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside Iran, protesters chant slogans during a protest over the death of a woman who was detained by the morality police, in downtown Tehran. The regime cut Iranians’ access to Instagram, one of the few Western social media platforms still available in the country, following days of mass protests.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned seven Iranian government and security leaders on Thursday for their suppression of women’s rights protests using violence and censorship.

The figures sanctioned by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) are attempting to squash demonstrations sparked by the arrest of Mahsa Amini by Iran’s Morality Police.

Amini was “severely beaten” and then died while in custody after being arrested for wearing her hijab improperly. Iranian women are required by Islamic law to cover their heads, necks and hair using a hijab.

“The United States condemns the Iranian government’s Internet shutdown and continued violent suppression of peaceful protest and will not hesitate to target those who direct and support such actions,” said Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson in response to Thursday’s sanctions.

OFAC named Iranian Minister of the Interior Ahmad Vahidi and Minister of Information and Communications Technology Eisa Zarepour as two of the foremost human rights offenders in the country’s response to the protests.

Vahidi has overseen the response of the country’s Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) to protests over Amini’s death. The LEF’s attempts to violently subdue citizens have resulted in more than 100 deaths.

The minister, who has threatened protesters and openly encouraged law enforcement’s brutal tactics in past weeks, previously oversaw the bombing of the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association building in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that killed 85 people and wounded hundreds more.

Zarepour is behind the Iranian government’s blockage of citizens’ Internet access and claims that social media platforms are contributing to the continued protests. The communications head has indicated that the government will continue its censorship until protests die down, according to OFAC.

The Department of the Treasury also named LEF Deputy Operations Commander Hossein Sajedinia, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Deputy Political Commander Yadollah Javani, Iranian Cyber Police leader Vahid Mohammad Naser Majid, IRGC commander Hossein Nejat and LEF police chief in Tehran Hossein Rahimi in the sanctions.

The leaders of the LEF and IRGC order undercover officers in their respective organizations to identify and punish women who violate the dress code of the morality police.

The LEF’s “Nazer” plan (meaning “observe” in Persian), spearheaded by Rahimi, stations Morality Police officers throughout Tehran to punish women who fail to observe government-mandated standards of modesty.

The sanctions against these seven leaders are pursuant to Executive Orders 13553, authorizing sanctions in response to “serious human rights abuses” by the Iranian government, and 13846, authorizing sanctions in response to censorship by Iran. The first order was handed down by former President Obama in 2010 and the second by former President Trump in 2018.

Any U.S. property of the seven Iranians sanctioned must now be blocked and reported to OFAC, including property interests of which the sanctioned individuals have up to 50 percent ownership.

Tags Ahmad Vahidi Brian Nelson Department of the Treasury Eisa Zarepour hijab Hossein Nejat Hossein Rahimi Hossein Sajedinia Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Law Enforcement Forces Mahsa Amini morality police Office of Foreign Assets Control Vahid Mohammad Naser Majid Yadollah Javani
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