On May 20, the United States sanctioned nine Iranian officials, including the interior minister, and three entities for human rights abuses. The new measures “send a message of support to the Iranian people that we will continue to support their demands for transparent and accountable governance and speak out for those who are being silenced by this regime,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The State Department imposed visa restrictions and the Treasury Department imposed financial sanctions.
As part of its "maximum pressure" campaign, the Trump administration has blacklisted many senior Iranian officials, including the foreign minister, advisors to the Supreme Leader, and the governor of the central bank. Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli allegedly authorized police to use lethal force on protestors in November 2019. Demonstrations had erupted in some 100 towns and cities after a surprise hike in gas prices. Seven of the blacklisted individuals were from the Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) and another was a Revolutionary Guards provincial commander, all of whom had roles in the bloody crackdown. The United States also sanctioned two prisons and a wealthy foundation controlled by the LEF. Washington alleged that up to 1,500 people were killed and thousands more were detained in late 2019.
In his statement, Pompeo also highlighted Iranian human rights abuses beyond its borders. He announced visa restrictions on Ali Fallahian, who headed the Ministry of Intelligence and Security from 1989 to 1997. Fallahian was allegedly involved in assassinations and attacks across the world, including the killing of a U.S. exchange student in the Gaza Strip in 1995 and the bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that left 85 dead in 1994. The following is a statement from Pompeo and a press release from the Treasury.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
Standing with the Iranian People
Today, the United States is imposing financial sanctions and visa restrictions on Iranian individuals and entities under human rights-related authorities. These actions with respect to 12 Iranian individuals and entities by the Department of State and Department of the Treasury send a message of support to the Iranian people that we will continue to support their demands for transparent and accountable governance and speak out for those who are being silenced by this regime. Our pressure on Iran to treat its own people with dignity and respect will not cease.
The individuals sanctioned include the current Minister of Interior for Iran, Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli. We have reason to believe Minister Rahmani Fazli gave carte blanche orders authorizing Iranian police forces to use lethal force on peaceful protestors and bystanders. His—and the regime’s—goal was to quash these peaceful protests and suppress the rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression at any cost. His orders led to the killing of many protestors, including at least 23 minors. One of these victims, Sayed Ali Mousavi, only 12 years old, was returning home from school when he was fatally shot by police as he passed by the protests near his home. We are also publicly designating Minister Rahmani Fazli under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2020, for his involvement in gross violations of human rights. Minister Rahmani Fazli and his immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States.
In addition to human rights abuses inside its own borders, Iran has a long track record of assassinations and terrorism in other countries. Another individual being designated for visa restrictions under Section 7031(c) is Ali Fallahian, who served as the head of Iran’s intelligence service (MOIS) from 1989 to 1997. During that time, he was involved in multiple assassinations and attacks across the globe, including the 1995 killing of Alisa Flatow, a 20-year old U.S. exchange student who was killed in a suicide bombing in the Gaza Strip. He also bears responsibility for the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 individuals. He and his immediate family members are also permanently barred from entering the United States.
In an effort to hide evidence of the regime’s abuses against its own people, Iran imposed a near-total shutdown of access to the global Internet last November, placing nearly all of its 80 million people in digital darkness for a week while security forces killed as many as 1,500 people and arbitrarily detained thousands more. The Iranian regime has long restricted access to the Internet while censoring and inhibiting rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly - two universal human rights. We call on technology companies in the U.S. and globally to do their part to improve the free flow of information to the Iranian people, and we highlight again the Department of the Treasury’s General License D1, which facilitates the use by Iranians of certain personal communications services.
Treasury Sanctions Iran’s Interior Minister and Senior Law Enforcement Officials in Connection with Serious Human Rights Abuses
WASHINGTON – Today, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) took action against Iran’s Interior Minister for his role in serious human rights abuses against Iranians, as well as seven senior officials of Iran’s Law Enforcement Forces (LEF) and a provincial commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Today’s action also targets the Bonyad Taavon NAJA, which is translated as LEF Cooperative Foundation, along with its director and members of the board of trustees. The LEF Cooperative Foundation is an economic collaborative controlled by the LEF and is active in Iran’s energy, construction, services, technology, and banking industries.
“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.
This action is taken pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13553 of September 28, 2010, which imposes sanctions on certain persons with respect to serious human rights abuses by the Government of Iran. On June 9, 2011, Treasury sanctioned the LEF and IRGC pursuant to E.O. 13553 for being responsible for or complicit in serious human rights abuses that have occurred since the disputed June 2009 presidential election and ensuing protests. The LEF has also been designated under separate authorities for its support to the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad in the civil conflict in Syria, which has resulted in the displacement and suffering of millions. The IRGC has also been designated under counterterrorism and counter proliferation authorities. Both organizations continue to be implicated in human rights abuses, including those involving the killing of Iranian protestors, most recently in November 2019 following widespread protests in Iran over an increase in gasoline prices. In November 2018, OFAC designated Ghavamin Bank for providing banking services and facilitating routine financial transactions for the LEF.
Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli
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.
In addition, the Ministry of the Interior is also responsible for issuing permits for peaceful gatherings. 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.
Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13553 for being an official of the Government of Iran or a person acting on behalf of the Government of Iran who is responsible for or complicit in, or responsible for ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, the commission of serious human rights abuses against persons in Iran or Iranian citizens or residents, or the family members of the foregoing, on or after June 12, 2009, regardless of whether such abuses occurred in Iran. Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli is also being identified pursuant to E.O. 13599 as an official of the Government of Iran.
The Department of State is also publicly designating Rahmani Fazli under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2020, for his involvement in gross violations of human rights. Rahmani Fazli and his immediate family members are barred from entering the United States.
Hossein Ashtari Fard and Ayoub Soleimani
OFAC is also designating Hossein Ashtari Fard (Ashtari), the Commander of the LEF since March 2015 and Ayoub Soleimani (Soleimani) is the Deputy Commander of the LEF, a position he was appointed to in 2018 by Ashtari with the approval of Iran’s Supreme Leader, pursuant to E.O. 13553 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the LEF.
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.
Additionally, Ayoub Soleimani was appointed in April 2020 as the head of the Planning Directorate of the Armed Forces General Staff, the most senior military body in Iran, which was designated by OFAC in November 2019 pursuant to E.O. 13876 for being owned or controlled by the Supreme Leader of Iran.
Mohsen Fathi Zadeh, Yahya Mahmoodzadeh, Hamidreza Ashraq, and Mohammad Ali Noorinajad
Treasury is also taking action against a number of 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. Noorinajad has publically praised the LEF for its role in suppressing the November 2019 protests, referring to the protestors as rebels, villains, and opportunists.
Mohsen Fathi Zadeh, Yahya Mahmoodzadeh, Hamidraza Ashraq and Mohammad Ali Noorinajad are being designated pursuant to E.O. 13553 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the LEF.
Hassan Shahvarpour Najafabadi
Hassan Shahvarpour Najafabadi (Shahvarpour) is an IRGC Brigadier General and the Commander of the IRGC’s Vali Asr Base in Khuzestan province, and he served in the position during the IRGC’s violent suppression of protestors in November 2019. In this province and the city of Mahshahr alone, the IRGC killed at least 100 protestors in a three-day period. Shahvarpour was designated in January 2020 by the State Department under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriation Act, 2020, for his involvement in gross violations of human rights against protestors during the November 2019 protests. Shahvarpour and his immediate family members are barred from entering the United States.
Today, Hassan Shahvarpour Najafabadi is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13553 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the IRGC.
The LEF Cooperative Foundation and Habil Darvish
The LEF Cooperative Foundation is an economic collaborative controlled by the LEF that is active in Iran’s energy, construction, services, technology, and banking industries. It reportedly sold oil worth $180 million, profits of which were not repatriated to the government. The majority of the aforementioned LEF senior officials, including Ayoub Soleimani, Mohsen Fathi Zadeh, Yahya Mahmoodzadeh, Hamidraza Ashraq and Mohammad Ali Noorinajad, are, or have been, members of the board of the LEF Cooperative Foundation.
The LEF Cooperative Foundation is being designated today pursuant to E.O. 13553 for being owned or controlled by, directly or indirectly, the LEF.
Habil Darvish is the Managing Director of the LEF Cooperative Foundation and Deputy of Engineering of the LEF. Habil Darvish is being designated pursuant to E.O. 13553 for having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, LEF Cooperative Foundation.
All property and interests in property of these persons that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC. OFAC’s regulations generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.
In addition, non-U.S. persons that engage in certain transactions with the persons designated today may themselves be exposed to designation. Furthermore, any foreign financial institution that knowingly conducts or facilitates a significant transaction for or on behalf of the persons designated today could be subject to U.S. correspondent or payable-through account sanctions.
For identifying information on the individuals and entity designated today, click here.