In remembrance of the one-year anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini, an Iranian woman who passed away in police custody after allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code for women, four nations have announced sanctions on Iranian officials. Amini, aged 22, died a year ago while detained by Iran’s morality police for improper hijab-wearing. Her death triggered widespread protests, posing a significant challenge to Iran’s clerical rulers.
The United Kingdom’s foreign ministry initiated the punitive measures, which target senior Iranian figures responsible for the formulation and enforcement of Iran’s mandatory hijab legislation. The United States, Canada, and Australia have joined the UK in imposing these new sanctions.
The UK has placed sanctions on four Iranians, including Mohammad Mehdi Esmaili, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance; Mohammad Hashemi, Deputy Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance; Alireza Zakani, Tehran’s mayor; and Saeed Montazer Al-Mahdi, an Iranian police spokesman.
The US has imposed sanctions on 29 individuals and entities in Iran, including members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the head of Iran’s Prisons Organization, and three state-backed media outlets. Additionally, it has announced visa restrictions on 13 Iranian officials.
The announcement of these sanctions signifies support for Iranian women and underscores the need to draw attention to Iranian oppression, according to Britain’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. He stated, “Today’s sanctions on those responsible for Iran’s oppressive laws send a clear message that the UK and our partners will continue to stand with Iranian women and call out the repression it is inflicting on its own people.”
As the anniversary approached, human rights groups reported an increase in Iran’s crackdown on protesters, including university professors accused of supporting the protest movement known as “Women, Life, Liberty.” Concerns have been raised about the potential for renewed protests in Iran and a violent state response to suppress them.
Meanwhile, a prisoner exchange between the US and Iran may be on the horizon, potentially marking a step toward reducing tensions between the two long-standing adversaries. As part of this exchange, Iranians would gain access to $6 billion in frozen funds held in foreign accounts. This development has raised concerns among some Republican presidential candidates, who argue that it amounts to paying ransom to a state sponsor of terrorism.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis criticized the Biden administration’s decision, claiming it bankrolls Iran’s nuclear ambitions, hostage-taking, and support for extremists hostile to the United States.
As international attention focuses on these developments, the situation in Iran remains a focal point for human rights advocates and policymakers alike.