The United States blacklisted Iran’s morality police on Thursday following the death in custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested for allegedly wearing her hijab headscarf inappropriately.
The US Treasury said the morality police were “responsible” for Amini’s death, which sparked public outrage, as it announced the sanctions “for abuse and violence against Iranian women and violation of the rights of Iran’s peaceful protest.”
The sanctions move came as violent protests erupted across Iran following the death last week of Iranian-Kurdish Amini, who was arrested by the national police’s public morality unit.
“Mahsa Amini was a brave woman whose death in moral police custody was yet another act of brutality by the Iranian regime’s security forces against her own people,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
“We condemn this unconscionable act in the strongest terms and call on the Iranian government to end its violence against women and its continued violent crackdown on free expression and assembly,” Yellen said in a statement.
According to an official count, at least 17 people have died in unrest following Amini’s death as women burned their headscarves and protesters criticized the government’s leadership and restrictions on women.
The Oslo-based non-governmental group Iran for Human Rights said at least 31 civilians were killed in six nights of violence.
The Treasury also sanctioned Mohammad Rostami Cheshmeh Gachi, head of the morality police, Haj Ahmad Mirzaei, head of the Tehran department of the morality police, and five other senior security officials involved in the repression of the protests.
He said Rostami announced earlier this year that women would be punished for refusing to wear hijab.
“The Iranian government must end its systematic persecution of women and allow peaceful protest,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“The United States will continue to express our support for human rights in Iran and hold those who violate them accountable,” he said in a statement.
Treasury sanctions are intended to freeze any assets the designated individuals may have under US jurisdiction and to prevent any American individuals or companies – including international banks with US operations them – doing business with them, effectively limiting their access to global financial networks.