The United States imposed sanctions Wednesday on three Iranian government officials as Iran intensified its crackdown on protesters, mostly in Kurdish territories.
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) slapped sanctions against key officials of the Kurdish city of Sanandaj: Hassan Asgari, the governor of Sanandaj, and Alireza Moradi, the commander of Iran’s Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) in the city, according to a press release,
Asgari and other city officials provided false information on the death of a 16-year-old protester, the release stated.
“Providing false alternative causes of death for protesters killed by security forces is a common tactic utilized by Iranian officials to evade accountability for their human rights abuses,” it added.
Moradi led the crackdown on protests in Sanandaj, according to the release.
The latest tranche of sanctions also targeted Mohammad Taghi Osanloo, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander overseeing another Kurdish city, Mahabad, for “having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the IRGC.”
The military command in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province, where Mahabad is located, is considered one of the most critical IRGC commands, the release stated.
The IRGC and the LEF have both been accused of being responsible for or complicit in serious human rights abuses in Iran since the country’s June 2009 disputed presidential election.
With sanctions in place, all assets and interests in property of the three Iranian officials that are in the U.S. have been frozen.
The department also warned individuals and foreign financial institutions against engaging in transactions with the officials, saying they could find themselves exposed to sanctions or subject to enforcement action as well.
In a tweet Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. is “greatly concerned that Iranian authorities are reportedly escalating violence against protesters, particularly in the city of Mahabad. We continue to pursue accountability for those involved, as we support the Iranian people.”
Brian E. Nelson, the Treasury Department under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, urged the Iranian regime to stop the abuses against civilians.
“The abuses being committed in Iran against protesters, including most recently in Mahabad, must stop,” Nelson said.
The new sanctions came after dozens of protesters were reportedly killed in the past week.
The massive street demonstrations against the regime began when Iran’s morality police arrested 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in September. Amini was detained for allegedly violating the country’s dress code for women. She later died in custody.
In October, several Iranian ministers and law enforcement officials were sanctioned by the U.S. due to their involvement in the shutdown of Iran’s internet and repression of freedom of speech, the Associated Press reported.
This year’s protests were seen as the most serious challenge to the Islamic Republic’s leadership since the Green Movement demonstrations in 2009.
Human Rights Activists in Iran, a human rights watchdog, said 426 people had been killed by security forces, while 17,400 others were arrested.