Last week saw the imposition of new human rights-related sanctions on eight Iranian Officials from the paramilitary and security forces by the European Union, reports The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran). The top commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Hossein Salami, is among the latest targets of asset freezes and travel restrictions. The ultimate value of these sanctions will depend on whether Europe demands accountability further up the chain of command.
The new sanctions are the only significant measures implemented in response to the handling of the dissidents in 2019. Reuters confirmed in a special report on December 23, 2019, about the deadly crackdown on November nationwide protests in Iran the death toll of 1500 that was announced by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) on December 15, 2019.
The long delay is symptomatic of Western aversion to a conflict, long-established in Iran. No other sanctions have targeted human rights violations since 2013, despite countless abuse cases in the meantime.
Since 2013 the theocratic dictatorship has expanded the enforcement of hard-line principles and restrictions on expressions of public dissent. This has resulted in stricter gender segregation, numerous prison sentences for women who defy this segregation, poverty, and disenfranchisement for marginalized groups, and consolidation of the regime’s control over digital and traditional media.
The second tier of consequences encompasses an increase in a public backlash against the regime, November 2019 constituting the apex of this trend.
Another uprising in January of 2018 encountered a slower and less intense reprisal from authorities. The death toll from this is estimated at several dozen, with many held in an Iranian jail and tortured. November 2018; the IRGC opened fire on a crowd of protesters in many of the 200 participating localities.
Amnesty International noted the clear evidence of the regime’s gunmen shooting with fatal intent. The NCRI estimated the death toll around 1500. This was later confirmed by the Reuters News Agency. Officially the regime counts 250 dead, but the NCRI has identified more than 800 people by name.
The regime has systematically tried to cover up the crackdowns. Foreign intervention over human rights abuse is necessary, and the absence of intervention exposes the Iranian people to continuing risks.
With the latest sanction, the EU has sent a message that it will no longer tolerate Iran’s violent repression of its dissidents. The Eu sanctions are welcome but are limited in how they are enforced and whom they target.
The president cannot travel or access assets in foreign banks, making official lives more difficult, but it does not impact the handlers of the regime.
The summer of 2018 saw a terror blot thwarted that would have detonated at a gathering of Iranian expatriates near Paris. The crowd included political dignitaries, lawmakers, and scholars from the US and Europe. The participants of said plot include a high-ranking Iranian diplomat, and all 4 have since been prosecuted and convicted in a Belgian court. This is massively underreported by the EU.
The plot originated high in the regime, and resistance activists insist that Ali Khamenei and President Rouhani were both involved. The same can be said for the crackdown on dissidents in November 2019.
The answer to European negligence is extending sanctions all the way up the Iranian chain of command, ending when the regime can make a definitive chance or is overthrown by its increasingly hostile population.