U.S. Treasury Department Designates Three Iranian Officials With Human Rights Sanctions

Hassan Asgari, Alireza Moradi, and Mohammad Taghi Osanloo are the latest recipients in a series of global sanctions issued in response to Iran’s violent crackdown on protesters. Nationwide outrage erupted in Iran after 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in police custody three days after her arrest for wearing her hijab too loosely. The unrest born out of Amini’s case now addresses the widespread repression of freedom and justice under the Iranian regime. Those sanctioned hold ties to either the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) or the Law Enforcement Forces of Iran (LEF), organizations known for the use of excessive brutality against civilians. The U.S. sanctions were presented against a backdrop of global condemnation of Iran, with varying sanctions also passed by the EU and U.K. earlier in the month. Foreign diplomatic pressures on officials and simultaneous national protests are working to reform the draconian policies of Iran in support of women’s rights.

The IRGC and LEF were first sanctioned by the U.S. for participation in human rights abuses during the 2009 Iranian presidential election. Today, these groups and their leaders are charged with the complicit use of excessive force toward peaceful protestors. According to the Norwegian human rights group, Iran Human Rights (IHR), over 416 people have been killed by security forces since September 16th, 2022. U.S. Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Brian E. Nielsen, described the Iranian regime as “targeting and gunning down its own children.” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that the sanctions levied by the US are meant to support “the people of Iran as they demand their fundamental freedoms.”

Actions by the international community in response to abuses by the Iranian regime are crucial in effecting change. According to the BBC, the recent domestic protests have posed the greatest threat to the Islamic Republic’s leadership in a decade. However, the forceful suppression of protestors requires additional external pressure on the regime to ensure progress. It is essential that international bodies continue to advocate for the rights of Iranians taken into police custody without cause. Foreign officials must continue to make known the crimes of regime leaders in suppressing, abusing, and killing protestors and respond rapidly with targeted action toward leaders executing violent commands.

Hassan Asgari, the current governor of Sanandaj and previous commander of IRGC, attempted to avoid responsibility for the recent death of 16-year-old protestor Nika Shakarami. Asgari and fellow state officials reported Shakarami’s death a suicide, but allegations suggest she was killed by security forces ten days after publicly burning her headscarf in Tehran. Alireza Moradi, the commander of LEF forces in Sanandaj, ordered mass arrests in his region and authorized the use of lethal weapons on unarmed protestors. Mohammad Taghi Osanloo, an IRGC Ground Forces commander, led security forces in violent responses to peaceful anti-government demonstrations. The protests which originated in the Kurdish-majority regions of Northwest Iran have since spread as far as the traditional cities of Qom and Mashhad according to Euronews. In an article by The Guardian, Kasra Aarabi, an Iran analyst at the Institute for Global Change, says the nation is “in the middle of a revolution and will not back down” despite state-led intimidation. The tagline of the movement, “Women, life, and freedom” is symbolic of the larger goal the protests have come to represent: defending human liberties.

Iran is no stranger to civilian unrest. Large-scale protests in 2009, 2017, and 2019 received global media attention. Today’s movement is said to differ from predecessors in its ability to unite people in “nearly every section of society” says the BBC. Uprisings in 2009 were led by the middle class and those in 2017 and 2019 were led by the working class. Now, protests span socioeconomic status, geographic region, age, and gender. The prevailing slogan “death to the oppressor [or dictator]”, referencing Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has caused speculation about political upheaval. But traditional hardliners are urging more severe crackdowns to debilitate the cause. Iranian forces are resorting to unjust arrests, open firing on crowds, and the death penalty to diminish what could be a nationwide revolution.