WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden announced new U.S. sanctions Friday on “some of Iran's most egregious human rights abusers” as he marked the anniversary of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died while being held by the country's morality police.
Amini had been detained for allegedly wearing her hijab too loosely in violation of laws that require women in public to wear the Islamic headscarf. She died three days later in police custody.
Her death set off protests in dozens of cities across the country of 80 million people, with young women marching in the streets and publicly exposing and cutting off their hair. The government responded with a fierce crackdown, blaming the protests on foreign interference.
Amini remains a potent symbol in protests that have posed one of the most serious challenges to the Islamic Republic since the 2009 Green Movement protests drew millions to the streets.
Biden said Friday that the U.S. reaffirms its “commitment to the courageous people of Iran who are carrying on her mission.”
“They are inspiring the world with their resilience and resolve. And together with our allies and partners, we stand with them," he said.
Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control on Friday listed 29 people and organizations in connection with Amini’s death, including members of the government’s security forces and the head of Iran’s Prisons Organization. It also sanctioned the semiofficial Fars and Tasnim news agencies, believed to be close to the country’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, and state television’s English-language arm Press TV.
The Iranian semi-official ISNA news agency reported that the country’s foreign minister Hossein Amirabdollahian dismissed the sanctions as a joke. “The sanctions that the Americans are imposing against Iran these days are more like a joke; Sometimes we see that the names of some people who died a few years ago are mentioned in these lists," Amirabdollahian said.
Tasnim, reporting on the sanctions, called them “repetitive actions (that) are not considered a new issue for the bodies that protect the country’s security.”
In addition, the State Department imposed visa restrictions on 13 Iranian officials and others for their involvement in killing or detaining peaceful protesters or censoring them via a country-wide internet shutdown in Iran.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. would designate 25 Iranian people, three state-backed media outlets, and an internet research firm in connection with the Iranian regime’s suppression of nationwide protests. Taken in coordination with the U.K., Canada, Australia, and other nations, this is the United States' 13th round of sanctions designations in response to Iran’s crackdown on protests.
“We will continue to take appropriate action, alongside our international partners, to hold accountable those who suppress Iranians’ exercise of human rights,” Blinken said.
In Brussels, the European Union announced that it had slapped asset freezes and travel bans on four officials, including a senior member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, to mark the anniversary.
The 27-nation bloc also imposed asset freezes on four prisons and the Tasnim news agency. EU citizens are banned from providing funds or economic resources to the prisons and people listed.
“The European Union expresses its support for the fundamental aspiration of the people of Iran for a future where their universal human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected, protected, and fulfilled,” a statement said.
Iranian authorities said Amini had a heart attack. Her family has disputed that.
The U.S. has already sanctioned over 70 Iranian people and entities “responsible for supporting the regime’s oppression of its people," Biden said.
Associated Press writers Amir Vahdat in Tehran, Iran, Jon Gambrell in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Lorne Cooke in Brussels, Belgium, contributed to this report.