The United States and some of its allies on Wednesday targeted Iranian officials with sanctions over accusations they committed human rights abuses against women and girls. File photo by EPA-EFE
March 8 (UPI) -- The administration of President Joe Biden sanctioned eight Iranians and three entities in the Middle Eastern country on Wednesday, International Women's Day, as it seeks to punish those accused of committing human rights violations against women and girls.
The sanctions -- which freeze all assets of those listed while barring U.S. citizens from doing business with them -- were imposed by the United States in coordination with Australia, Britain and the European Union.
"The United States, along with our partners and allies, stand with the women of Iran, who advocate for fundamental freedoms in the face of a brutal regime that treats women as second-class citizens and attempts to suppress their voices by any means," Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said Wednesday in a statement.
The sanctions were imposed on International Women's Day, a day widely celebrated and used to promote women's rights, and amid ongoing women-led anti-regime protests in Iran that were sparked in September when a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini, died in police custody after being beaten and detained for allegedly violating Iran's draconian hijab dress code laws.
Protests have been met with a violent crackdown, resulting in hundreds dead and thousands detained.
The United States and its allies have responded with sanctions, and on Wednesday targeted two senior officials in Iran's prison system, a top commander of the Iranian army, a high-ranking leader in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and an Iranian official. Three Iranian companies and their leadership were also hit.
The prison officials -- Ali Chaharmahali, director-general of Alborz Province Prisons, and Dariush Bakhshi, head of Orumiyeh Central Prison in West Azerbaijan Province -- were blacklisted as the nation's prisons are "notorious for mistreatment, abuse and death," the U.S. Treasury said, adding female prisoners especially suffer from sexual violence torture and other cruel treatment.
Chaharmahali oversees some of the nation's most notorious detention facilities. U.S. Officials said protesters sent to prisons under the control of the 47-year-old have been tortured and pressured into forced confessions.
Prior to his current position, he was warden of the infamous Evin Prison, where under his oversight political opponents were tortured and female inmates were threatened with rape as a form of coercion.
Officials said women, including protesters, at Bakhshi's prison have been subjected to sexual violence and other forms of mistreatment, including being forced into sexual relations with guards in exchange for better treatment.
Others punished Wednesday include Mahdi Amiri, technical director of the Cyberspace Affairs Deputy of the Prosecutor General's Office, who is accused of working with Iranian authorities who have repeatedly blocked websites and conducted Internet shutdowns during the ongoing protests.
The three companies hit were accused of supplying Iran's security services with equipment and technology.
"The United States remains deeply concerned that Iranian authorities continue to suppress dissent and peaceful protest, including through mass arrests, sham trials, hasty executions, the detention of journalists and the use of sexual violence as a means of protest suppression," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Wednesday.
"Together with allies and partners around the world, we continue to take action to support the people of Iran in the face of these and other human rights abuses by the Iranian regime."
Britain on Wednesday also announced it sanctioned four people and one entity including military officials who oversaw rape and other forms of gender-based violence in conflicts in Syria, South Sudan and Central African Republic.
In Iran, it separately sanctioned the Headquarters for Enjoining Right and Forbidding Evil and its head official Seyyed Mohammed Saleh Hashemi Golpayegani, who is responsible for the enforcement of Iran's dress code through force.
"We are increasing our efforts to stand up for women and girls, and will use all the tools at our disposal to tackle the inequalities, which remain," British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement.
The EU similarly adopted a sanctions package Wednesday that targetd nine people and three entities accused of committing human rights abuses against women.
Among those listed include Iran's Qarchak Prison.