US marks 40th day after Jinna Amini’s death with sanctions, including on heads of two prisons in Iranian Kurdistan

The new sanctions focus on senior figures who manage Iran’s prisons, including the Director-General of Kurdistan Province Prisons and the Warden of the Central Prison of Sanandaj.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to reporters in Washington. (Photo: AFP/Mandel Mgan)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks to reporters in Washington. (Photo: AFP/Mandel Mgan)

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan24) “It has been 40 days since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa (Jina) Amini in the custody of Iran’s so-called ‘Morality Police,’” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a written statement on Wednesday.

Blinken’s statement was published on the same day as protests took place throughout Iran to mark the 40 days since her death. As a result of the regime’s harsh repression, over 200 protestors have been killed in those 40 days.

Thus, Blinken’s statement also denounced “the brutal crackdown on the ongoing nationwide protests in Iran,” while it affirmed that the US would hold accountable those responsible.

Heads of Kurdistan Province Prisons and Sanandaj Prison Sanctioned

In the new sanctions announced on Wednesday, the US designated 14 Iranian officials, along with three organizations.

The new sanctions focus on senior figures who manage Iran’s prisons. They include Fathi Murad, Director-General of Kurdistan Province Prisons, as well as Heidar Pasandideh, Warden of the Central Prison of Sanandaj, the capital of Iran’s Kurdistan Province.

Other officials in Iran’s prison system designated on Wednesday include the Director-General of Tehran Province Prisons, Heshmatollah Hayat al-Ghaib, as well as Hedayat Farzadi, Warden of Tehran’s Evin Prison, where the majority of Iran’s political prisoners are detained.

In addition, Isfahan’s Chief of Police, Mohammed Reza Mirheydary, was sanctioned “for his involvement in gross violations of human rights” in repressing peaceful protestors in November 2021, Blinken’s statement explained.

Also sanctioned were Mohammed Reza Ostad, Warden of Bushehr Prison, as well as the prison itself.

Iranian Officials in Baluchistan Sanctioned

The Baluch are the dominant population in the south of Iran’s eastern-most province, Sistan and Baluchistan. The Baluch are Sunni and a traditional tribal people, with their own language, customs, and compact territory. Like the Kurds, they aspired to a state of their own in the 20th century, but they did not achieve one, and their territory is divided among Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.

Prior to the 1975 Algiers accord between Iraq and Iran, each side supported the opposition to its rival. Iran supported the Kurds, while Iraq supported the Baluch. With the accord, that support ended. The Kurdish leadership sought refuge in the US; the Baluch leadership sought refuge in Iraq.

On Wednesday, the US sanctioned four Iranian officials involved in suppressing protests in the province of Sistan and Baluchistan. Most notably, they include the provincial governor himself, Hossein Modarres Khiabani.

On Sept. 30, as a Treasury Department statement explained, “after Friday prayers in the provincial capital, Zahedan, security forces fired live ammunition, tear gas, and metal pellets at protesters and bystanders, killing at least 80 people,” while “hundreds more were injured.”

“Khiabani, in his role as governor, had responsibility for oversight of Iranian security forces’ violent response to those protests,” the department said, in explaining why Khiabani was being sanctioned.

Also sanctioned were two prison officials: the Director-General of Sistan and Baluchistan Province Prisons, Mohammad Hossein Khosravi, and the Warden of Zahedan Central Prison, Morteza Piri.

The fourth individual designated for his involvement in the repression of the Baluch is Ahmad Shafahi, Commander of the Salman Corps, part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC.)

Two Other IRGC Officials Sanctioned, along with two Companies

The US also sanctioned the Commander of the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization, Mohammad Kazemi, who only assumed his current position in June. As the Treasury Department stated, “Kazemi has overseen a heightened crackdown on civil society across the country.” while the IRGC is “an essential element of the regime’s aggressive use of violence against the Iranian people.”

In addition, the IRGC’s Deputy Commander for Operations, Abbas Nilforushan, was sanctioned. Previously, he was a military adviser in Syria, aiding Damascus in suppressing the revolt there.

The US also sanctioned Tehran’s Ravin Academy, which “trains individuals in cyber security and hacking,” the Treasury Department explained. Some number of those trainees are then recruited into Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS.)

The “academy” also “assists the MOIS with a variety of cyber services,” including “information security training, threat hunting, [and] cyber security,” along with digital forensics and malware analysis, the Department said.

Finally, the company, Sahab Pardaz, “one of the main operators of social media filtering services in Iran,” was sanctioned, the Department explained.

Sahab Pardaz “actively provides censorship, surveillance, and espionage tools to the Government of Iran by using big data analysis to analyze the private data of Iranian citizens,” the Treasury Department stated.