U.S. Sanctions Iran Over Women’s Rights Abuses

March 8, 2023

The Treasury and State Departments announced new sanctions on Iran Wednesday targeting officials and businesses accused of violating women’s rights amid recent nationwide protests.

In a statement Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. government “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.”

The protests erupted across the country last September in the days following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody. She was arrested for not properly wearing a religious headscarf known as a hijab.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has called Amini’s death a “tragic accident.”

Since the protests broke out, the Islamic Republic has executed at least 15 men—although some human rights groups put the estimate higher—following fast-tracked trials. All have reportedly been hanged.

And in the past three months, more than 1,000 girls in different schools have been hospitalized with cases of respiratory distress in what are suspected to be mass poisonings. The Ayatollah has condemned the alleged poisoners, saying that if the accusations are proven true, the perpetrators should face the death sentence. 

On Wednesday, Brian Nelson, the U.S. Treasury’s under secretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement that Iran’s government “treats women as second-class citizens and attempts to suppress their voices by any means.”

The latest sanctions were imposed in coordination with the European Union, United Kingdom and Australia. The sanctions’ announcement was timed to coincide with International Women’s Day.  

Included in Wednesday’s U.S. sanctions are two prison officials, several businesses that manufacture equipment for Iranian law enforcement, and the commander-in-chief of the Iranian army. The sanctions aim to deny those targeted access to any property or financial assets held in the U.S. They also prevent U.S. companies and citizens from doing business with them.

The latest sanctions come just weeks after the Commerce Department levied sanctions on Iran for providing weapons, particularly drones, to Russia. Those sanctions were announced on February 24, one year to the day since Russia invaded its sovereign neighbor, Ukraine.

In November the U.S. sought to oust Iran from the United Nations’ Commission on the Status of Women, the organization’s premiere global body fighting for gender equality. Vice President Kamala Harris said at the time that Iran is “unfit” to serve on the commission and its presence “discredits the integrity” of its work.

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