On Saturday, President Donald Trump tweeted: “Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption & its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves.”
“The world is watching!” Trump concluded.
The tweet came against the background of a third day of massive protests in central Tehran and most Iranian cities Saturday. Activists on social media shared videos and photos of protestors who gathered and walked in Enqelab Street in central Tehran and chanted to fellow Iranians to support them and join their protests.
— IranWire (@IranWireEnglish) December 30, 2017
At the same time, 4,000 pro-government demonstrators rallied in Tehran on Saturday in support of Iran’s leaders, covered by state media. State television showed marchers in Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest city, carrying banners supporting Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. According to the NY Times, the demonstrator were bused in.
The BBC reported that Interior Minister Abdolrahman Rahmani Fazli urged Iranians on Saturday “not to participate in these illegal gatherings as they will create problems for themselves and other citizens.”
IranWire tweeted: “Day 3. Protesters in the city of Najaf Abad, central Iran, one of the bastions of the 1979 Revolution, chant: We don’t want the Islamic Republic!” And, “Protesters in Bandar Abbas, South Iran, ask ‘dignified Iranians’ to join them.” Also, “Protesters in the city of Zanjan, north Iran, call the police: bi sharaf, it’s one of the worst insults in Persian: spineless and undignified.”
The US State Dept. on Friday issued a statement saying, “We are following reports of multiple peaceful protests by Iranian citizens in cities across the country. Iran’s leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos. As President Trump has said, the longest-suffering victims of Iran’s leaders are Iran’s own people.
“The United States strongly condemns the arrest of peaceful protesters. We urge all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption.”
Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi on Saturday responded angrily to the administration’s statements, saying that the US is behind “the violation of human rights in Palestine, Yemen and Bahrain along with [preventing] cultured Iranian people from entering US soil and arresting a large number of Iranian nationals residing in the US under baseless pretexts.”
“The same reasons are behind the opportunist and deceptive supports of these [US] officials for some gatherings held in Iran in recent days in some of the Iranian cities, which were part of the US hypocritical ploy,” Qasemi added.
Iran’s government continued on Saturday to point to outside meddling behind the protests, which have been the heaviest since the 2009 rallies. Tehran deputy governor in charge of security affairs Mohsen Hamadani told ILNA that some protesters “may have been temporarily arrested” for participating in “illegal demonstrations,” because, “unfortunately, most of the people who participate in these gatherings are unsophisticated individuals who are not aware that these calls for protest are made by anti-revolution elements.”
These participants have been duped by outside forces, Hamadani reasoned, because they are unaware “that anti-revolution elements are calling people to demonstrate against social issues such as inflation but chant untrue slogans.”