ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - The United States on Thursday issued fresh sanctions on Iran aimed specifically at the country’s morality police over the death of Mahsa(Zhina) Amini, blaming the police force for the young woman’s death.
Amini, 22, was arrested by Iran’s so-called morality police last week, for allegedly wearing the hijab in an improper manner. She was taken to the hospital hours later after collapsing in a prison cell in Tehran. She died on Friday, with authorities claiming that the cause of death was a heart attack, while human rights activists and witnesses say she was beaten in the police van.
Amini’s death sparked outrage across the cities of Iran with thousands of civilians and activists taking to the streets to protest the ambiguous circumstances surrounding the young woman’s death. The incident also drew reactions from the international community, strongly condemning her death.
The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said Thursday they were sanctioning the morality police and seven senior officials of Iran’s security bodies who “oversee organizations that routinely employ violence to suppress peaceful protesters.”
In accordance with the sanctions, all properties and interests of the designated individuals and entities in the US “must be blocked and reported to OFAC,” according to the treasury department’s statement, adding that persons who “engage in certain transactions” with the designated individuals might be subjected to designations as well.
“I know there has been skepticism particularly on social media in response to many of the different condemnations [from the US] that we've seen over the past few days,” Merissa Khurma, program director of the Middle East Program at Wilson Center, told Rudaw’s Diyar Kurda on Wednesday, “I think that is a genuine sentiment, but how to act on it is a different story.”
Khurma stated that the US has consistently emphasized its commitment to preserving human rights from “abusive policies,” believing that this remains true for the current situation in Iran.
US President Joe Biden addressed the protests in Iran during his remarks at the 77th UN General Assembly on Wednesday.
“Today we stand with the brave citizens and the brave women of Iran who right now are demonstrating to secure their basic rights,” said Biden.
Concerns and condemnations were also voiced by other top US officials, including National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
Khurma expressed hope that the protests would produce a change for women’s rights in Iran, especially changes in clothing enforcement polices, as they “should really be basically a choice.”
“I think what's really significant about what we are seeing is that the reaction to the killing of Ms. Amini… It's not something that's just felt in Iran; it’s felt across the Middle East, and North Africa region,” the scholar added.
At least 16 people have died at the hands of Iranian security forces since the beginning of the demonstrations, with hundreds others injured and arrested.