Western powers imposed more sanctions on Iran Friday, highlighting the brutality of the Islamic Republic on the one-year anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini.

The United States, The United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union also issued a series of statements voicing support for the Iranian people and women and condemning the government for violence against its own population.

“Jill and I join people around the world in remembering her—and every brave Iranian citizen who has been killed, wounded or imprisoned by the Iranian regime for peacefully demanding democracy and their basic human dignity,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.

Amini, 22, was arrested because the hijab police felt her hair wasn’t covered properly. She was hit on the head in custody and died in hospital on 16 September 2022.

People took to the streets in anger and disbelief, first at Mahsa’s hometown of Saqqez in the Kurdistan province and then all over Iran. More than 500 were killed and tens of thousands were arrested in the weeks that followed, as armed police and loyal thugs joined forces to save the regime from the most serious popular challenge to its authority since 1979.

Commemorating Mahsa and the months-long anti-regime protests in Iran, the governments of US, UK and EU announced new rounds of sanctions that would target “some of Iran’s most egregious human rights abusers”, in the words of President Biden.

Those sanctioned by the US include high-ranking members of the IRGC, the head of Iran’s Prisons Organization, and officials linked to Iran’s internet blockade. The English state channel (PressTV) and two IRGC-affiliated media (Fars and Tasnim) were on the list too.

The US Treasury said in a statement that it will take more “collective action against those who suppress Iranians’ exercise of their human rights.”

Britain separately sanctioned senior officials with connection to enforcing mandatory hijab, including the minister for Culture and Islamic Guidance, who has taken action against actresses and businesses for defying the mandatory hijab. Also on the UK list are the Mayor of Tehran, and the Police Spokesman, who has threatened to impound vehicles whose driver or passengers choose to not cover their hair.

The UK Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, commended the bravery of Iranian women and reaffirmed the UK's unwavering commitment to supporting the Iranian people's pursuit of fundamental rights.

However, the UK has refused to designate Iran's notorious Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization and together with the United States have not pursued the prolongation of UN restrictions on Iranian missile exports that will expire in October.

Some commentators were quick to point out, however, that the UK government's actions speak louder than their words.

Kasra Aarabi, Director of UANI (United Against a Nuclear Iran) reminded Cleverly that the UK government had refused to add IRGC to its list of terrorist organizations. He wrote on X (formerly twitter): “UK Foreign Office's explicit opposition to IRGC proscription not only puts UK lives at risk, it’s given IRGC a propaganda victory before the anniversary of Mahsa Amini’s murder.”

Similar criticisms were leveled at Biden, whose nice words for ‘courageous people of Iran’ have coincided with a secretly negotiated prisoner swap which would see $6 billion handed to the repressive regime.

Jonathan Schanzer of Foundation for Defense of Democracies wrote on X:

“US Imposes Sanctions on the Anniversary of Mahsa “Zhina” Amini’s Death — after authorizing $6 billion in ransom payments that will only serve to boost the coffers of this rotten regime. The strategic incoherence is staggering.”

The prisoner swap seems to be imminent. If it happens on or around 16 September, it would no doubt gobble up precious airtime and overshadow the ‘anniversary’.

Iran has faced growing international isolation and sanctions due to its human rights violations and the supply of UAV technology to Russia for use in Ukraine. Notably, Iran was removed from the UN Commission on the Status of Women in December 2022.

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