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US sanctions against Iranian officials during crackdown on protests

The US has accused three Iranian security officials of complicity in human rights abuses in predominantly Kurdish areas.

The United States has announced sanctions on three Iranian security officials as the government tries to crack down on protesters in largely Kurdish regions of the country.

In a press release on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused the three officials – Hassan Asgari, Alireza Moradi and Mohammad Taghi Osanloo – of complicity in human rights abuses.

“The United States is deeply concerned by reports that the Iranian authorities are escalating violence against peaceful protesters,” Blinken said. “The human rights violations that the Iranian government inflicts on its people must not go unnoticed.”

The sanctions come as protests continue to rock Iran, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, an Iranian of Kurdish descent, who died after being arrested by the country’s vice squad in September.

Human Rights Activists in Iran, a group that monitors the protests, said at least 426 people were killed and more than 17,400 arrested as the Iranian government tried to quell the protests.

The US Treasury Department said in a statement that the government’s response has been “particularly severe” in areas with large Kurdish populations, such as Sanandaj and Mahabad in northwestern Iran.

One of the people sanctioned today, Asgari, is the governor of Sanandaj. The US Treasury Department alleged that he and other officials were attempting to cover up the death of a 16-year-old protester who was reportedly killed by security forces, spreading rumors that she died of suicide and a drug overdose instead.

Another sanctioned official, Moradi, is the commander of the Iranian Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) of Sanandaj. He reportedly ordered the “mass arrest of protesters,” according to US Secretary of State Blinken.

The third person named in Wednesday’s sanctions, Osanloo, is the commander of the ground forces unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province. He oversees a region that includes the Kurdish city of Mahabad.

Iran has resisted a review of its human rights record, accused Western governments of hypocrisy and said during a UN meeting that the government had shown “deep restraint” during the protests.

The sanctions freeze all US-based assets held by the individuals and generally prevent individuals in the US from doing business with them.

The US has previously imposed sanctions on members of Iran’s intelligence community, IRGC leaders, prison guards, members of Iran’s state media and others.

“The Iranian regime is reportedly targeting and shooting dead its own children who have taken to the streets to demand a better future,” Brian Nelson, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement. “The abuses being committed against protesters in Iran, including most recently in Mahabad, must stop.”

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