German minister calls for EU sanctions over Iran crackdown

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FILE – A protester shows a portrait of Mahsa Amini during a demonstration to support Iranian protesters standing up to their leadership over the death of a young woman in police custody, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022 in Paris. Anti-government demonstrations erupted Saturday, Oct. 8, in several locations across Iran as the most sustained protests in years against a deeply entrenched theocracy entered their fourth week. The protests erupted Sept. 17, after the burial of 22-year-old Amini, a Kurdish woman who had died in the custody of Iran’s feared morality police. (AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard)

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s foreign minister is calling for European Union entry bans and asset freezes against those responsible for what she described as brutal repression against anti-government protesters in Iran.

The most sustained protests in years against Iran’s theocracy are now in their fourth week. They erupted Sept. 17 after the burial of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, a Kurdish woman who died in the custody of Iran’s feared morality police. Amini had been detained for an alleged violation of strict Islamic dress codes for women.

Since then, protests spread across the country and have been met by a fierce crackdown, in which dozens are estimated to have been killed and hundreds arrested.

“Those who beat up women and girls on the street, carry off people who want nothing other than to live freely, arrest them arbitrarily and sentence them to death stand on the wrong side of history,” German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock was quoted as telling Sunday’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

“We will ensure that the EU imposes entry bans on those responsible for this brutal repression and freezes their assets in the EU,” she added. “We say to people in Iran: We stand and remain by your side.”

Baerbock didn’t name any specific individuals or organizations.

On Thursday, EU lawmakers approved a resolution calling for sanctions against those responsible for the death of Amini and the subsequent crackdown.

Germany, along with fellow EU member France, is among the nations that are part of a 2015 agreement with Iran to address concerns over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program and have been attempting to revive the deal.

Talks on the deal have languished but if it’s reinstated, the agreement would provide sanctions relief that would help strengthen the Iranian government.

On Sunday, videos on Iranian social media appeared to show students staging a protest on the campus of al-Zahra University in Tehran, a day after students chanted against Iran’s president during a visit there.

Protests erupted in cities across Iran on Saturday. In Tehran’s bazaar, traditionally a stronghold of Iran’s rulers, a crowd set fire to a police kiosk. Later that evening, anti-government marches drew a large crowd in the capital’s central Naziabad area, social media posts showed.

Facing persistent unrest, authorities have turned to targeting prominent Iranians who have expressed support for the protests.

The semi-official ILNA news agency reported that Iranian officials seized the passports of Homayoun Shajarian, a prominent singer, and Sahar Dolatshahi, an actress, after the pair returned from a concert tour in Australia on Saturday. The passports were taken at Tehran’s international airport, the news agency said.

Shajarian had expressed support for the protesters during his foreign tour. During a Sept. 13 concert, a large photo of Mahsa Amini served as a stage backdrop and he sang an old song dealing with cruelty and oppressors.

Another backdrop had the caption: “Don’t kill these people. These people deserve life, not death. These people deserve happiness and freedom. My position is clear, I will always stand by the people of my land.”

Authorities also detained a number of prominent artists, including singer Shervin Hajipour whose song “For” became an anthem of the protest movement. Hajipour was released on bail on Oct. 4.

In parallel, Iranian officials have wielded state media to blame unrest on foreign powers.

At least four anchors with Iran’s state broadcasting organization have resigned “in support of the Iranian people’s protests,” a reporter with the reformist daily Shargh tweeted on Sunday. IRIB has recently and in the past aired the forced confessions of detainees.

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