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Gholamreza Soleimani is the commander of the paramilitary Basij force, which the U.S. Treasury Department described as “one of Iran’s most important domestic security resources.”

The United States has slapped sanctions on about a dozen Iranian officials and entities accused of committing "serious" human rights abuses.

The sanctions announced on December 7 target government officials and organizations that Washington said have been involved in the repression of protesters and political activists, as well as prisons where activists have been held in brutal conditions.

Several Syrian officials were also placed on the U.S. Treasury Department's blacklist for their roles in political repression and chemical gas attacks, along with Uganda's military intelligence chief.

The announcement came ahead of the Washington-hosted virtual Summit for Democracy from December 9-10, billed by the State Department as a push to promote more free and open societies across the world.

“Consistent with the goals of this week’s Summit for Democracy, the United States is committed to using its full range of tools to counter serious human rights abuse and repressive acts across the world," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the U.S. sanctions “won't create leverage -- and [are] anything but seriousness & goodwill.”

"Washington fails to understand that 'maximum failure' and a diplomatic breakthrough are mutually exclusive," Khatibzadeh wrote on Twitter.

The Iranian sanctions single out officials and entities involved in brutal crackdowns on protests in 2009 and 2019, including special units of Iran’s Law Enforcement Forces and their commander, Hassan Karami.

Those blacklisted also included Gholamreza Soleimani, commander of the paramilitary Basij force, which the Treasury Department described as “one of Iran’s most important domestic security resources.”

The governor of Qods City, Leila Vaseghi, was also targeted “for issuing an order to the police and other armed forces during the November 2019 protests to shoot unarmed protestors, causing dozens of deaths or injuries.”

With reporting by Reuters
A recent RFE/RL report revealed that more than 1,000 ads on renting apartments and houses on one website stipulated that the properties could be rented by "Slavs only." (file photo)

An online real estate service in Russia has started deleting advertisements with xenophobic elements after an RFE/RL report focusing on ads offering rentals "for Slavs only" was published last week.

CIAN.ru announced on December 6 that all individuals and companies who placed ads on the service's website with discriminatory texts must edit them and delete any improperly worded sentences by February 1, 2022.

The service added that, after this deadline, it will fix such texts on its own as it sees fit.

"We stand for equal opportunity for all CIAN.ru users and believe that this decision will become the industry standard" for the real estate market, the CIAN. statement said.

The announcement comes four days after RFE/RL's Idel.Realities published an investigative report revealing that more than 1,000 ads on renting apartments and houses on the CIAN.ru website noted that the properties could be rented by "Slavs only."

Lev Gudkov, deputy director of the pollster Levada-Center, told RFE/RL that xenophobia was on the rise across Russia as a result of government policies that "turned inaccessible slogans into accessible ones."

CIAN.ru's press service told RFE/RL on December 6 that the group's current goal was "to exclude content that discriminates the rights of some categories of users on the basis of their ethnicity, religion. etc."

Millions of Russian citizens are not Slavs, but represent different ethnic groups such as Turkic, Finno-Ugric, Mongol, Jewish, and many other ethnicities.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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