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U.S. Sanctions Iran Regime’s Interior Minister for Human Rights Abuses

U.S. Sanctions Iran Regime’s Interior Minister for Human Rights Abuses
U.S. Treasury Building

In a press release on Wednesday, the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned the Iranian regime’s Interior MinisterAbdolreza Rahmani Fazlifor his role in serious human rights abuses against Iranian people, along with seven senior officials of the Iranian regime’s Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) and provincial commander of the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). In addition to these individuals, the U.S. Department of Treasury also targeted the Bonyad Taavon NAJA, which is translated as LEF Cooperative Foundation, along with its director and members of the board of trustees.  

“The Iranian regime violently suppresses dissent of the Iranian people, including peaceful protests, through physical and psychological abuse,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin. “The United States will continue to hold accountable Iranian officials and institutions that oppress and abuse their own people.” 

The LEF has played a key role in government crackdowns on protesters and operates detention centers associated with physical and psychological abuses. The LEF has begun to crack down on Afghan migrants in Iran, sending them to deportation centers where the IRGC has reportedly coerced many into fighting for Iranian militias in Syria. In May 2020, the LEF was implicated in the torture and drowning of Afghan nationals attempting to cross into Iran,” read the press release.  

As the Iranian regime’s Interior Minister and chair of Iran’s National Domestic Security Council (NDSC), Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli (Rahmani Fazli) has responsibilities for overseeing internal security issues, including Iran’s LEF. Rahmani Fazli holds the title of “Deputy or Replacement Commander-in Chief of Police Forces”, as delegated to him by the Supreme Leader. Rahmani Fazli has issued orders authorizing the LEF to use lethal force in response to the November 2019 protests, resulting in violence against peaceful protestors and bystanders. His orders led to the killing of many protestors, including at least 23 minors,” the Treasury Department statement added.  

Under Rahmani Fazli’s tenure, which began in 2013, the LEF has been responsible for the commission of serious human rights abuses against Iranians on multiple occasions, including killing hundreds of Iranians. As the Interior Minister, Rahmani Fazli issued several public warnings to protestors discouraging them from gathering and emphasizing that the LEF would crack down. Further, under Fazli’s tenure, the Ministry has routinely denied permits, or granted permits and then denied security, for the gatherings. These gatherings have then been attacked by plainclothes individuals believed to be part of the intelligence and security apparatus. Additionally, Rahmani Fazli as chair of the NDSC was involved in the Iranian regime’s decision to impose the days-long internet blackout of the November 2019 protests,” read the statement.  

The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) has announced that at least 1500 protesters were killed during the nationwide Iran protests, that were triggered following the sudden gas price hike by the regime.  In addition, according to the MEK, there were over 12,000 detained protesters, who the regime refuses to release even amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

Rahmani Fazli is a culprit in the coronavirus outbreak which so far, according to the MEK, has claimed the lives of nearly 43,000 people. While defending his decision to hold the sham parliamentary elections, during the first days of the pandemic, Rahmani Fazli admitted on February 23: “Some people recommended that we postpone the election. Regarding Qom, they insisted we postpone the election in the city. As the official responsible for the election, I did not accept any of these (recommendations).”     

Along with Rahmani Fazli several other of the regime’s security officials are targeted. They include: Hossein Ashtari Fard (Ashtari), the Commander of the LEF since March 2015, and Ayoub Soleimani (Soleimani), the Deputy Commander of the LEF, and the LEF’s most senior officials: Mohsen Fathi Zadeh, the Chief of the Defense and Intelligence Organization of the LEF; Yahya Mahmoodzadeh, the Deputy of Planning and Budget for the LEF; Hamidraza Ashraq, the Deputy of Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for the LEF; and Mohammad Ali Noorinajad, the Deputy Coordinator of the LEF and finally Hassan Shahvarpour Najafabadi (Shahvarpour), an IRGC Brigadier General and the Commander of the IRGC’s Vali Asr Base in Khuzestan province. 

During Ashtari’s tenure as commander, the LEF has been implicated in multiple cases of violence, including the reported killing of hundreds of Iranian protesters and several dozen children following nationwide protests against an increase in gasoline prices in November 2019. In addition, Ashtari also directs the LEF cyber police unit, an organization that monitors expressions of dissatisfaction with the Iranian regime and has threatened to punish Iranians who use social media to organize protests. Soleimani took an active role in the suppression of anti-hijab protests in July 2019, calling an improperly worn hijab an obvious crime. He issued statements that the security forces would forcefully confront women who were not abiding by the Iranian dress code,” read the statement.  

According to the OFAC, Hassan Shahvarpour Najafabadi was the IRGC commander when “In this province and the city of Mahshahr alone, the IRGC killed at least 100 protestors in a three-day period.”