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EU agrees to sanction Iran over protests crackdown

October 12, 2022

Iranian security forces have been arbitrarily arresting activists, journalists and anyone who protests against the regime in an effort to stem the unrest since the death of a young woman in police custody.

A picture obtained by AFP outside Iran, reportedly shows objects lit on fire in the capital Tehran
Children have been among those who have died in the protestsImage: AFP/Getty Images

European Union member states agreed on Wednesday to enact new sanctions against Iran over the country's crackdown on protests after the death of activist Jina Mahsa Amini.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen tweeted: "The brave Iranian women demand freedom and equality — values that Europe believes in and must speak up for. The violence must stop. Women must be able to choose. This shocking violence cannot stay unanswered. It's time to sanction those responsible for this repression."

There were no specific details on what the sanctions might entail, but news agencies AFP and EFE said that agreement was reached among EU diplomats and will be ratified at the next foreign ministers' meeting to be held in Luxembourg on Monday.

The United States, the United Kingdom and Canada have already separately targeted security branches of the Iranian regime as part of their sanctions against the Islamic Republic in the wake of Amini's death. The 22-year-old died after being arrested by Iran's so-called morality police last month.

Among those sanctioned by the United States were Iranian Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi and Communications Minister Eisa Zarepour, as well as five other officials.

US President Joe Biden said Washington would increase costs on Iranian officials linked to violence against protesters.

Protests in 19 cities

Meanwhile, according to activists, protests over Amini's death continued in at least 19 cities across Iran on Wednesday.

The demonstrations were met with a massive deployment of riot police and plainclothes officers throughout Tehran and other cities, as authorities moved to quell the unrest.

According to The Associated Press, witnesses also described disruptions affecting their mobile internet services.

Advocacy group NetBlocks said Iran's internet traffic had dropped to some 25% compared to the peak.

The move is "likely to further limit the free flow of information amid protests," NetBlocks said.

Lawyers also demonstrated in front of the Iran Central Bar Association in the capital, chanting: "Woman, life, freedom," a slogan synonymous with the protests.

The lawyers subsequently fled security forces after the authorities fired tear gas at them, the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran said.

At least three lawyers were among the some two dozen arrested in Tehran, the center said.

Death penalty 'main instrument for creating fear'

"Lawyers willing to defend detainees arrested for peaceful protest are the last lifeline for a citizenry under attack by the Iranian government," said Hadi Ghaemi, the center's executive director. "Protests must be allowed without the threat of lethal state violence or arbitrary arrest."

What sparked the unrest?

Jina Mahsa Amini was arrested in Tehran last month for allegedly breaching Iran's strict dress code for women by wearing her hijab too loosely. She died on September 16, three days after she fell into a coma following her arrest.

The lawyer for Amini's family said "respectable doctors" believe she was hit in custody after being arrested by the Iranian "morality police."

The family also said they were told by other detainees that Amini was severely beaten, adding that they were not allowed to see her body.

Last week, Iran's Forensic Organization said her death was "not caused by blows to the head and vital organs and limbs of the body."

Police had previously claimed Amini suffered a heart attack after being taken to a police station to be "educated."

Rights groups have said that more than 100 people, including children, have died since the protests broke out last month.

jsi/nm (AFP, EFE, AP)

October 14, 2022: This article was updated to use the Kurdish name of the Iranian activist, Jina Mahsa Amini.