By Jennifer Hansler, CNN
The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on three officials in Iran’s Kurdish region, where dozens of protesters have reportedly been killed in the past week as the Iranian government continues its violent crackdown.
The latest tranche of sanctions comes a day after the United Nation’s human rights office sounded the alarm on the mounting death toll from the nationwide protests, saying the situation on the ground is “critical.”
Protests erupted after 22-year-old Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini died in the custody of Iran’s morality police in mid-September. The US has imposed a slew of penalties against Tehran for its violent repression of the protests.
The latest tranche of sanctions targets two key officials in the city of Sanandaj: Hassan Asgari, the governor of Sanandaj, and Alireza Moradi, the commander of the nation’s Law Enforcement there, as well as Mohammad Taghi Osanloo, “the IRGC Ground Forces commander that oversees Iran’s West Azerbaijan province which includes the city of Mahabad,” where Iranian forces — including the IRGC, according to the US Treasury — have been deployed to crack down on protests.
On Sunday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he was “greatly concerned that Iranian authorities are reportedly escalating violence against protesters, particularly in the city of Mahabad.”
According to a press release from the Treasury Department, “prior to entering his role as governor of Sanandaj, Asgari was the commander of IRGC forces in Sanandaj. Asgari’s transition from a military role to governor is an example of the systematic spread of military control over cities.”
“When a 16-year-old protester was reportedly killed by security forces in Sanandaj, Asgari and other officials stated she died of a drug overdose, potentially by suicide,” the release said.
“Providing false alternative causes of death for protesters killed by security forces is a common tactic utilized by Iranian officials to evade accountability for their human rights abuses,” it added.
In the case of Amini, who was arrested for allegedly improperly wearing a hijab, Iranian officials claimed she had died of a heart attack, despite allegations that she was severely beaten and her family saying she had no pre-existing heart condition.
According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, more than 300 people have been killed since the nationwide protests began in mid-September, including 40 children.
“The Iranian regime is reportedly targeting and gunning down its own children, who have taken to the street to demand a better future,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said in a statement Wednesday. “The abuses being committed in Iran against protesters, including most recently in Mahabad, must stop.”
The United States announced in early November it will work to remove Iran from the UN Commission on the Status of Women, and the UN Human Rights Council is set to hold an emergency session on the human rights situation in Iran on Thursday, following a request from Germany and Iceland to “address the situation of women and girls in the recent protests.”
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CNN’s Jomana Karadsheh and Niamh Kennedy contributed to this report.