US sanctions Iran’s ‘morality police’

The Treasury announced the move as protests over a young woman’s alleged murder spread in Iran

The United States on Thursday imposed sanctions on Iran’s so-called “morality police,” citing a woman’s death in their custody as the reason. Amid spreading unrest in Iran over the alleged murder of Mahsa Amini, the US Treasury also sanctioned seven senior officials of the Islamic Republic’s security organizations. 

“The Morality Police are responsible for the recent death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested and detained for allegedly wearing a hijab improperly,” the department said in a statement.

Amini died in a hospital on September 16, two days after being arrested. Law enforcement officials said her death was the result of a heart attack. However, multiple reports on social media suggested that the young woman had died of injuries sustained while in custody. The claims prompted unrest in several cities, with rights groups saying too many people have been killed by security services.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen described Amini’s death as “yet another act of brutality by the Iranian regime’s security forces against its own people.” 

Imposing sanctions on the morality police and Iranian security officials demonstrates the US’s clear “commitment to stand up for human rights, and the rights of women, in Iran and globally,” Yellen said.

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Protesters clash with police in Iran, September 20, 2022. © Anadolu Agency / Getty Images
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The list of sanctioned individuals features the head of the “morality police” Mohammad Rostami Cheshmeh Gachi, Iran’s Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib, and the commander of the Iranian Army’s Ground Forces, Kiyumars Heidari.

“These officials oversee organizations that routinely employ violence to suppress peaceful protesters and members of Iranian civil society, political dissidents, women’s rights activists, and members of the Iranian Baha’i community,” the Treasury said.

The sanctions involve blocking all property and interests of the targeted individuals and entities in the US.

The “morality police” are part of Iran’s Law Enforcement Forces (LEF). LEF was sanctioned by Washington in 2011 over a crackdown on protesters in the aftermath of the disputed 2009 presidential election.

The Treasury’s sanctions announcement came as Iran’s Revolutionary Guards called on the country’s judiciary to “identify” those who are spreading “false news and rumors.” Amid the spreading protests over Amini’s death, the Guard said that those “endangering the psychological safety of society” should be prosecuted.

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