Iran: questions and answers about the situation and sanctions

Since 16 September 2022 there have been widespread protests in Iran and the Iranian authorities have used force against peaceful protesters. As a result, the European Union (EU) has imposed human rights sanctions on the Iranian authorities. Iran’s supply of drones to Russia has also led to EU sanctions. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been receiving many questions online about the situation in Iran and the sanctions. The most frequently asked questions are answered below:

What is happening in Iran?

Since 16 September 2022 there have been widespread protests in Iran, triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. Eyewitnesses claim that after being arrested by Iran’s morality police she was assaulted, ultimately resulting in her death.

The protests have now expanded their focus to also target repression and the country’s poor economic situation. The Iranian authorities have tried to end the protests through extensive deployment of the security services. In multiple towns and cities this has involved thousands of arrests and the use of force against peaceful protesters. Independent monitoring efforts are being severely hampered by restricted internet access, the arrests of journalists and the absence of civil society organisations.

Dozens of people who were involved in the protests have been sentenced to death. In early December Iran carried out the first two executions of individuals who were arrested during the protests. Both individuals were 23 years old. One of them was executed in public.

What is the Netherlands’ position on the situation in Iran?

The Netherlands is extremely concerned about the human rights situation in Iran and is monitoring developments closely. People have the right to engage in protests advocating women’s rights and other human rights. The Netherlands condemns the use of force against peaceful protesters and is calling on the Iranian authorities to institute a thorough, transparent and impartial investigation into the death of Mahsa Amini and other victims of the sometimes lethal force wielded by Iran’s security forces and other Iranian authorities. The Netherlands has made this call in forums such as the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly and in talks with the Iranian foreign minister and Iran’s ambassador to the Netherlands. The Netherlands also played an active role in the EU’s recent imposition of human rights sanctions against Iran and is contributing to discussions on the next steps.

Independent UN fact-finding mission

On 24 November the UN Human Rights Council held a special session on Iran. With Dutch support, the Council adopted a resolution establishing a fact-finding mission that will investigate all alleged human rights violations and civilian casualties in Iran since the death of Mahsa Amini. This is important in order to identify human rights violations that have been perpetrated and ensure that they are denounced at international level.

Executions in Iran

The Netherlands condemns the execution of protesters in the strongest possible terms and is calling on Iran to halt them immediately. The Netherlands is fundamentally opposed to the death penalty under any circumstances whatsoever. In addition, the Netherlands is continuing to call on Iran to give all detained Iranians a fair trial. As long as Iran continues to execute protesters and perpetrate other grave human rights violations, the Netherlands will continue to work within the EU for additional measures and sanctions.

What sanctions has the EU imposed on Iran?

The EU has imposed a variety of sanctions on Iran. On 17 October 2022 – partly at the initiative of the Netherlands – the EU introduced new human rights sanctions for the first time since the protests began in response to the death of Mahsa Amini and the use of sometimes lethal force against peaceful protesters. Further human rights sanctions were then adopted on 14 November and 12 December. As a result, a total of 158 individuals and entities are now covered by the EU’s human rights sanctions against Iran.

On 20 October 2022 – again acting partly at the initiative of the Netherlands – the EU adopted new sanctions in response to Iran’s supply of drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) to Russia to support Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Further restrictive measures were then adopted in November and December against Iranian individuals and entities involved in the development and delivery of drones to Russia. Since Iran began supplying drones to Russia, 16 Iranian actors have been sanctioned.

The bank accounts of sanctioned individuals and entities have been frozen and EU citizens and businesses are forbidden from making funds available to those sanctioned. The sanctioned individuals are also subject to travel bans, preventing them from entering the EU.

What was the Netherlands’ role regarding Iran’s removal from the UN Commission on the Status of Women?

On 14 December Iran was removed from the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. This sends an important signal to women and girls in Iran who are fighting for their rights. The Netherlands had no direct influence over this decision because it was taken in the form of a resolution of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The Netherlands is not currently a member of ECOSOC, but has been a strong advocate within the European Union for Iran’s removal from the Commission. The EU member states that are also members of ECOSOC supported the resolution unanimously.

What travel advice does the Netherlands give for Iran?

The security situation in Iran has deteriorated. Consequently, there is a red travel advisory in place for the whole of Iran. Do not travel to Iran. This advice applies, regardless of your circumstances. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is unlikely to be able to help you if you get into difficulties. If you are in Iran, leave the country if you can do so safely. If you are still in Iran and not yet registered with the Dutch embassy, go to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Information Service (Informatieservice Buitenlandse Zaken) (available in Dutch only). Then choose the option for signing up and registering with the embassy (in Dutch: ‘Aanmelden + registratie bij de ambassade’). This information service is a quick way for the Dutch embassy to contact you. Stay away from any protests. Read the full travel advice for Iran (in Dutch).

Enlarge image Protest in de Iraanse hoofdstad Teheran
Image: ©ANP
Protest in Teheran, Iran, 2 Oktober 2022.