Iranian officials are reportedly attempting to secure British passports for their families to exit the country as many violent protests over the death of an Iranian woman in police custody for not wearing a head covering surpassed 40 days.
Top government officials in Iran have been chartering up to “five flights a day” for their families as they seek “British passports” to get them out of the country, Express.co.uk reported on Thursday.
Additionally, the outlet says that sections of Tehran’s main airport have been commandeered by government forces to fast track their families escape from the protest-ridden country.
“It started around two weeks ago,” an Iranian source told the outlet. “The regime changed all security detail at the airport. They were moving civilians (friends and family) from the back entrance of the airport directly to the airplanes for international flights, at least five flights a day.”
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The Iranian officials have also been trying to acquire Swiss and Canadian passports, according to the report.
Conservative MP Bob Stewart said that he has heard that Iranian officials are fleeing to the United Kingdom and asked Foreign Office Minister Gillian Keegan if those reports would be investigated.
“Obviously, we have our own rule of law here in the U.K., but in relation to the rumors he has heard about passports, I haven’t heard those, but I will certainly look into that and write to him,” Keegan said.
The reported exodus of Iranian politicians comes after protesters in Iran, and around the world, have taken to the streets to protest the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini who died in custody in September after being arrested by the “morality police” for not wearing the country’s mandatory headscarf required of females.
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Emboldened female protesters chanted “Raisi get lost” and “Mullahs get lost” at Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi as he gave a speech at a university earlier this month. The Iranian government has claimed that Amini died of a heart attack, and Raisi has warned protesters that his regime will act “decisively” to end the violence.
The Norway-based Iran Human Rights organization Hengaw said earlier this month that the government’s strict crackdown on the protests has resulted in a civilian death toll of over 200 people as the country endures what is believed to be the boldest challenge to the clerical leadership in Iran since the 1979 revolution.
The White House announced earlier this month it was sanctioning several top Iranian officials in response to the violent crackdowns against protesters.
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The sanctions targeted seven Iranian leaders, including the country’s Minister of the Interior, Ahmad Vahidi, as well as Iran’s Minister of Communications, Eisa Zarepour, according to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.
“These individuals have been all involved in the suppression and killing of nonviolent protesters,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
“The Iranian government needs to end its systemic persecution of women and allow peaceful protest. The United States will continue to voice our support for human rights in Iran and hold those who violate them to account.”
Reuters contributed to this report