Iranians are free to protest and criticize Iran’s government, President Hassan Rouhani has said, adding, that the protests should not descend into violence. He also blasted President Donald Trump’s comments on the demonstrations.
“People are absolutely free to criticise the government,” the Iranian president said Sunday, commenting for the first time on the ongoing mass protests in Iran.
The protests should be held in a way that would lead to the improvement of the situation in the Islamic Republic and not the other way round, he added. “Criticism is different from violence and damaging public properties,” Rouhani warned as he called on demonstrators to refrain from any disruptive behaviour. He also said that solving Iran’s current problems “would take time”, and that the people and government should help each other in overcoming the difficulties.
The president then chided Donald Trump over his comments concerning the situation in Iran. The U.S. leader earlier repeatedly accused the Islamic Republic of “corruption” and “squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad” in a series of Twitter posts.
The U.S. has no moral right to act as if it defends the rights of Iranians because Washington itself calls them terrorists, Rouhani said. “Those, who called Iranians terrorists, have no business sympathizing with our nation.”
“This man in America who is sympathizing today with our people has forgotten that he called the Iranian nation terrorists a few months ago,” the president said at a government meeting, as cited by the official IRNA news agency. “This man who is against the Iranian nation to his core has no right to sympathize with Iranians,” Rouhani said further, calling Trump an “ill-wisher” and that Iranians do not need his sympathy.
Trump recently went on a Twitter spree, demonizing Iran and calling on its leadership to “respect the people’s rights.” He also warned that “oppressive regimes” do not “endure forever,” and that the U.S. “is watching very closely for human rights violations!”
The U.S. president’s comments provoked an angry reaction in Tehran, with the Islamic Republic’s foreign ministry immediately slamming Trump’s remarks as an “opportunist and hypocritical” attempt to meddle in Iran’s internal affairs. Later, Iranian lawmakers accused Washington of hypocrisy by saying the U.S. neither cares nor understand Iranian demands.
“How can it [the U.S. government] now claim to be defending the demands of the Iranian people?” Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, spokesman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission questioned, speaking to the Tasnim news agency. He said Washington has absolutely no right to pose as an advocate of the Iranian people’s interests, as America is largely to blame for their economic hardships because of the sanctions the U.S. has imposed against the Islamic Republic.
Amir Abdollahian, a senior adviser to the Iranian parliament’s speaker on international affairs also turned to Twitter, calling on Trump not to get too “excited” over the real nature of the rallies that have swept through the Islamic Republic over recent days. “Mr. Trump don’t get excited. People’s economic demands are different to rioters. Iranians prefer national security & religious democracy as practiced by [the] Islamic system over WH’s terrorist & deceptive policies,” he said in a Twitter post.
Iran has been gripped in a wave of mass demonstrations that started Thursday as people took to the streets to first protest against soaring food prices and unemployment. The rallies then turned into the biggest anti-government movement in eight years, as the crowds then aimed their anger at the Iranian government and the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
The anti-government protests were countered Saturday [Dec 30] by massive pro-government demonstrations. Rallies in support of the government were held in some 1,200 cities and towns across Iran, including the capital, Tehran and the second most populous city, Mashhad.
Some protests turned violent. Videos posted on social media showed protesters jostling with riot police, throwing stones, burning fires, and even hauling down a billboard of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Two people taking part in an unauthorized protest were killed in the city of Doroud (Dorud), 325 kilometers southwest of Tehran. On Sunday, Iran’s interior minister warned that “violence, fear and terror” will be dealt with firmly following the third consecutive night of unrest.