The U.S. announced on September 29 that it is sanctioning eight Iranian officials for their role in what U.S. officials describe as "serious and sustained human rights abuse" violations committed in the year since Iran's disputed presidential election. Any U.S. assets held by the eight officials, including the head of the Revolutionary Guard, Mohammad Ali Jafari, and Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi will be frozen. They are also barred from receiving a visa to travel to the United States.
Ebadi has said in an interview with the Farsi Service of Deutche Welle that the sanctions mark a "turning point” not only for Iran, but for “ the history of human rights":
"The sanctioned officials have never been to the US and it’s clear that after this they will not go either. So this move is largely symbolic, we're hoping that other countries will follow the example particulary European countries and Canada, we hope they’ll join these sanctions."
Dozens of Iranians have expressed support for the move on Radio Farda's website. Shaghayegh from Bushehr writes that she believes "political sanctions" are better than economic ones which, she says, only hurt the Iranian people.
Another commenter, Hadi, had a similar reaction: "This is what sanctions should be about; no cost to the people. I hope this trend by the White House will continue."
Many have thanked U.S. President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the sanctions against Iranian officials accused of human rights abuses.
Naser from Tehran writes:
"We would like to thank President Obama and Mrs.Clinton for showing their support for human rights. We hope that future sanctions will include people such as [Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad]."
In Tehran, however, a well-known journalist, Said Razavi Faghih, who campaigned for opposition leader Mehdi Karrubi, dismissed the human rights sanctions as a "propaganda move":
"I think this move by the U.S. will harm the Iranian people and the democracy movement rather then helping them. It will jeopardize the independence of Iran's protest movement."
A student in the Iranian capital who spoke to 'Persian Letters' on condition of anonymnity praised the symbolic value of the human rights sanctions:
"Are these sanctions going to make our life easier? Are they going to put an end to the economic hardship we're facing because of the financial sanctions? Will they improve the human rights situation ? Of course not. But symbolically it's a positive move and it shows that the U.S. does not care only about the nuclear issue."
Another young Iranian expressed some skepticism:
"These [officials] are only puppets and they never travel outside of Iran anyway. Why is the U.S. not naming the main human rights abuser: [Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei]?"
Many Iranians have criticized the economic sanctions for hurting ordinary people and not the country's leaders. They say sanctions are likely to impoverish the country and Iranians for years to come. But many seem to support the human rights sanctions for targeting individuals, and as one observer notes, these new sanctions "don't constitute a collective punishment."
A Washington-based Iran analyst who did not want to be named told 'Persian Letters' the human rights sanctions may avoid some of the consequences of the economic and financial sanctions adopted against Iran over its sensitive nuclear work:
"When you sanction the entire IRGC, you run the risk of pushing unhappy rank and file members and even some of the top commanders into the bosom of the leadership. On the other hand, by internationally publicizing individual names, the gap inside some of families can deepen. There have been reports that the children of some of the top officials were among the protesters last year in the Green Movement. These educated and ambitious youngsters already embarrassed by their fathers' roles in the massive crackdown, may feel their association is now taking a new international turn. Those who are planning to study abroad may have to recosinder their higher education goals. That could put more pressure on many officials in the government to further appreciate the consequences of their involvement in future human rights violations, be it by commission or by omission."
Tehran reacted angrily to the new sanctions, summoning the Swiss Ambassador Livia Leu Agosti to the Foreign Ministry. The Swiss Embassy in Tehran represents U.S. interests in the Islamic Republic.
Iran's official IRNA news agency reported that the Foreign Ministry described the sanctions as Washington's direct interference in Iran's internal affairs.
"This act spells the disruption of international order because no law permits the American government to do such a thing, while it is also a political abuser of human rights” an unidentified Foreign Ministry official was quoted by IRNA.
Iran’s state-controlled television described the human rights sanctions as a “hostile act" and said that the move is a reaction to Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's speech at the UN General Assembly, in which he claimed the U.S. was behind the September 11 terrorist attacks. Ahmadinejad's speech prompted a walk out by the U.S. and other countries.
"This shows that the president of America has been perturbed and concerned as a result of hearing the reasoned argument of Dr. Ahmadinejad and its wave-creating aspects at global level."
The report added that the sanctions on Iranian officials on "claims of human rights abuses" is a "repetitious and tiring" that shows that the US is working side by side with “lawbreakers and seditionists.” (Iranian officials often use the term "sedition" to describe Iran’s opposition Green Movement.)
The eight officials subjected to the new sanctions have not reacted publicly.
-- Golnaz Esfandiari