Macron vows tougher Iran sanctions amid protests crackdown

French President Emmanuel Macron waves as he attends a ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe, as part of the commemorations marking the 104th anniversary of the Nov. 11, 1918 Armistice, ending World War I, Friday, Nov. 11, 2022 in Paris,. (Gonzalo Fuentes/Pool via AP) (Gonzalo Fuentes)

PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron said Monday the West should step up sanctions against Iran by targeting government officials who are part of the violent crackdown on protesters demanding women's rights in the Islamic Republic.

Iranian women — and some men — have been protesting the government’s severe restrictions on their daily life since late September after the death of a 22-year-old Mahsa Amini following her arrest for allegedly violating the Islamic Republic’s strict dress code.

Tens of thousands of people across France and Europe have marched in solidarity protests with rebelling Iranians, demanding freedom for women and an end to the compulsory headscarf. French music and film stars, including two Oscar-winning actors, Marion Cotillard and Juliette Binoche, filmed themselves chopping off locks of their hair in support of protesters in Iran.

“Women in Iran fight this fight with exceptional courage under the threat to their lives and the lives of their loved ones,” Macron told public radio FranceInter in a broadcast Monday.

Their rebellion against the cleric-led state has “burst the ideological bubble” that Tehran has been sending to the world, Macron said, namely that Iranians don’t want Western values and that women there “were somehow happy to live in this constant state of obstruction.”

The ongoing protests of young Iranians born after the 1979 toppling of the monarchy who have only lived in the Shiite cleric-led state has proven them wrong, Macron said.

“The grandchildren of the (Islamic) revolution are leading a revolution against that revolution,” Macron said.

He added that the West needs to support them in their struggle, including by toughening European sanctions targeting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“I am in favor of a strong diplomatic reaction and sanctions on the regime’s personalities who are in responsible for the repression of this revolution,” Macron said.

His comments were recorded after his meeting Friday in Paris with four activists campaigning for Iranian women’s rights from exile.

Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani blasted Macron for meeting with the activists, who included two U.S.-based Iranian dissidents, Masih Alinejad and Ladan Boroumand. Kanaani on Monday warned Macron that supporting Iranian dissidents “whose true nature is known by the Iranian people” is a “wrong, short-sighted policy" that could endanger France's “long-term interests” in the region.