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US official says Washington 'will continue sanctions' on Iran after Mahsa Amini killing

State Department official says the US will 'consider all appropriate tools' to hold Iran accountable for human rights abuses
Activists demonstrate over the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran outside The New York Times building in New York City on 27 September 2022.
Activists demonstrate over the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran outside The New York Times building in New York City, on 27 September 2022 (AFP)
By Umar A Farooq in Washington

A US State Department official said on Tuesday that Washington will continue to impose sanctions on Iranian entities engaged in rights abuses following the killing of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

"The United States strongly supports the human rights of all Iranian women, including the right to peacefully assemble and to express themselves without fear of violence," Jennifer Gavito, deputy assistant secretary for Iran and Iraq at the State Department, said during an event hosted by The Atlantic Council.

"We will continue to enforce sanctions on Iranian entities perpetrating these human rights abuses, such as those imposed last week on Iran's morality police."

Amini, a Kurdish-Iranian woman, died in hospital earlier this month after being arrested in Tehran by the special police unit that monitors women's clothing.

Her death has sparked widespread protests across the country, with anger mounting at the law imposing headscarves on women and the "morality police" used to enforce it.

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Last week, the US issued new sanctions on Iran's morality police, holding it responsible for Amini's death and accusing it of violence against women. It also alleged that the special unit had violated the rights of peaceful protesters. 

How sanctions escalate anti-Iranian prejudice in the US
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Washington also sanctioned seven senior military and security officials, including Iran's morality police chief Mohammad Rostami Cheshmeh Gachi and Kioumars Heidari, ground force commander of Iran's army.

The US also moved to expand the range of internet services available to Iranians despite the sanctions placed on the country.

The announcement has allowed American companies to boost their services to Iranians, including social media and collaboration platforms, video conferencing and cloud-based services.

American officials said it would help Iranians access tools that can be used to circumvent state surveillance and censorship but would not entirely prevent Tehran from using communications tools to stifle dissent.

Iran had cut off internet access in the country a few days prior to the US move.

Tehran lambasted the move on Saturday, saying it was in line with Washington's hostile stance towards Iran.

"By reducing the severity of a number of communications sanctions - while maintaining maximum pressure - the US is seeking to advance its goals against Iran," foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said, as quoted by state media.

Gavito added that the US will look even beyond sanctions for ways to assist Iranian protesters and hold Iranian officials accountable for rights abuses.

"We will continue to look beyond sanctions and consider all appropriate tools to promote accountability for individuals and organisations responsible for human rights abuses, including of course, working with our allies to hold Iran accountable for these violations," she said.

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