Tighten the Screws: UK Sanctions Iranian Morality Police

October 11, 2022 Topic: Iran Region: Middle East Blog Brand: Lebanon Watch Tags: IranSanctionsIran SanctionsUnited KingdomIran Protests

Tighten the Screws: UK Sanctions Iranian Morality Police

The British government noted that the morality police had been implicated in the use of live ammunition against protesters.

 

The British government announced on Monday that it had imposed economic sanctions against Iran’s morality police, the Gasht-e Ershad, following the death in custody of twenty-two-year-old Mahsa Amini.

The British Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) announced the sanctions package in a press release, claiming that it targeted both the organization in its entirety as well as its overall leader, Mohammed Gachi, and the Tehran bureau chief, Haj Ahmad Mirzaei. The FCDO’s statement noted that the police had been implicated in the use of live ammunition against protesters—particularly during their attack on student demonstrators at Sharif University in Tehran—and accused them of burying the bodies of killed protesters without informing their families of their fate.

 

“The UK stands with the people of Iran, who are bravely calling for accountability from their government and for their fundamental human rights to be respected, British foreign secretary James Cleverly said, according to the statement. “These sanctions send a clear message to the Iranian authorities—we will hold you to account for your repression.”

The FCDO also announced the imposition of sanctions against five other Iranian officials associated with the police and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), who had been involved in crushing an earlier protest movement in late 2019. The five men’s existing assets in the UK were frozen, and they were banned from entering the country—although it is unclear how much these penalties will actually affect them.

The Gasht-e Ershad, or “Guidance Patrol,” is primarily responsible for enforcing the Iranian clerical government’s Islamic dress code. In this role, they arrested Amini on September 13 for failing to properly wear a headscarf. While in their custody, Amini suffered a health incident and was sent to a hospital in Tehran, where she died three days later. Although government officials have claimed that she had a heart attack in custody, her family and others who were detained with her claimed that she was beaten by the police, causing her death.

The Iranian government has described the protest movement as an existential threat and has ordered a sweeping crackdown, leading to more than 150 deaths. Iranian authorities also instituted a total internet blackout across the country in the protest’s opening days, limiting the spread of information throughout Iran and to the Western world.

Iranian leaders have also accused the West of helping to foment the protests. Iran’s Foreign Ministry filed a diplomatic complaint with the British ambassador to Tehran in September, noting that Britain hosted several Persian-language satellite television channels that had supported the protests.

Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.

Image: Reuters.