WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on Iranian officials and companies over accusations of serious human rights abuses, stepping up pressure on Tehran over its crackdown on protests as Washington marks International Women's Day.
The U.S. Treasury Department in a statement said it imposed sanctions on two senior Iranian prison officials it accused of being responsible for serious human rights abuses against women and girls.
Washington also put sanctions on Iran's top army commander, a senior official in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and an official tied to the Iranian government's efforts to block internet access. Also hit with sanctions were three Iranian companies and their leaders who have enabled law enforcement repression, according to the statement.
The step marks the 10th round of such U.S. sanctions since Tehran's crackdown on protests that began after Mahsa Amini, a woman from Iran's Kurdistan region, died in September in the custody of the morality police who enforce strict dress codes.
The protests by Iranians from all walks of life mark one of the boldest challenges to the ruling theocracy since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Iran accuses Western powers of fomenting the unrest, which security forces have met with deadly violence.
"The United States, along with our partners and allies, stand with the women of Iran, who advocate for fundamental freedoms in the face of a brutal regime that treats women as second-class citizens and attempts to suppress their voices by any means," U.S. Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in the statement.
"We will continue to take action against the regime, which perpetuates abuse and violence against its own citizens -especially women and girls," Nelson added.
The Treasury said it acted in concert with the European Union, Britain and Australia to mark International Women's Day.
Iran's mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Wednesday's move freezes any U.S. assets of those targeted and generally bars Americans from dealing with them.
(Reporting by Rami Ayyub, Arshad Mohammed and Daphne Psaledakis; writing by Susan Heavey and Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Will Dunham)