The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on Iran’s morality police in response to allegations of maltreatment of Iranian women, alleging that the unit was to blame for the death of a 22-year-old woman that had sparked protests across Iran.
The U.S. Treasury Department, which also announced sanctions had been levied on seven senior Iranian military and security personnel, including the commander of the Iranian army’s ground soldiers, accused the morality police of violating the rights of nonviolent protestors.
The public outrage in Iran over the death of Mahsa Amini has lasted for several days, with protests in Tehran and other places. There have been reports of attacks on security officers, and earlier on Thursday, rioters set fire to police stations and vehicles.
Kurdish woman Amini was arrested by Tehran’s morality police for wearing “unsuitable clothing,” and while she was in detention, she fell into a coma. According to the authorities, they will investigate what led to her death.
It was “yet another act of brutality by the Iranian regime’s security forces against its own people,” according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, who said in a statement that Mahsa Amini’s murder while under the Morality Police’s care.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken requested in a separate statement that the Iranian government end systematic persecution of women and allow for peaceful protests.
The Iranian Mission to the UN did not respond right away to a request for comment on the sanctions.
Senior State Department official who requested anonymity told reporters that more actions would be taken in the coming days but provided no other details.
When asked if the U.S. government was willing to supply Iranians with internet access through satellite, the official replied, “We’re looking at what we can do to provide greater support to those who are trying to express themselves freely… and we’ll have more to say in the coming days.”
The Kurdish region’s capital’s internet service has been “near-total” disrupted, according to internet monitoring organisation NetBlocks, which they linked to the protests. Iran has extremely restricted access to social media and other types of information.
The chief of Iran’s morality police, Mohammad Rostami Cheshmeh Gachi, the commander of the army’s ground forces, Kiyumars Heidari, and the country’s intelligence minister, Esmail Khatib, were among the senior officials so labelled, according to the Treasury.
The other individuals were named as Haj Ahmad Mirzaei, the head of the Tehran division of the morality police at the time of Amini’s arrest and death, Salar Abnoush, the deputy commander of the hardline Basij militia in Iran, Qasem Rezaei, and Manouchehr Amanollahi, members of the Iranian Law Enforcement Forces.
According to the department, all of those designated’s assets and stakes in assets that are subject to American jurisdiction have been frozen and need to be disclosed to the Treasury.
U.S. sanctions may be imposed on foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitate a substantial transaction or offer significant services to people under sanctions.