Following a judge’s warning, according to an Iranian news agency, that demonstrators will face the death penalty, Trump reminded officials the “the U.S. is watching” as he branded Tehran “brutal and corrupt”. According to Tasnim News Agency, Judge Mousa Ghazanfarabadi said that one of their charges could be Moharebeh, or “waging war against God.” In Iran, this is a death penalty offense. The judge was also quoted as saying some protesters will come to trial soon on charges of acting against national security and damaging public properties.
U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, also requested emergency sessions on the crisis and urged condemnation of the assault on Iranian’s freedoms. Haley called on “all freedom-loving people” to stand with the oppressed Iranians in remarks from the United Nations. “If the Iranian dictatorships history is any guide, we can expect more outrageous abuses in the days to come. The UN must speak out,” she said. “We must not be silent. The people are crying out for freedom. All freedom-loving people must stand with their cause.”
On Thursday, demonstrators gathered in Tehran to protest Iran’s weak economy. Subsequently, a wave of spontaneous protests swept into large cities on Saturday, with college students and others chanting against the government. 21 people have died and more than 450 have been arrested in Iran.
Iran’s foreign ministry responded on Tuesday, saying that Trump should focus on “homeless and hungry people” in his own country, rather than insult Iranians. Ministry spokesman Bahram Ghasemi said, “Instead of wasting his time sending useless and insulting tweets regarding other countries, he would be better off seeing to the domestic issues of his own country such as daily killings of dozens of people… and the existence of millions of homeless and hungry people.”
According to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the people of Iran have the right to express their preferences at the ballot box, which is more than can be said about citizens of other countries in the region the U.S. considers allies. Zarif tweeted, “Iran’s security and stability depend on its own people, who — unlike the peoples of Trumps regional ‘bffs’ — have the right to vote and to protest.”
On Tuesday, after nine people died in overnight clashes, the head of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court reportedly said that detained protesters could be executed. Six deaths occurred when protesters clashed with security forces as they tried to storm a police station in Qahderijan, in the Isfahan region of central Iran.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has dismissed the protests as “nothing”, in a bid to downplay the significance of the increasingly violent demonstrations. However, Trump has praised protesters for challenging Iran’s “brutal and corrupt” regime. In a Tuesday tweet Trump saluted Iranians for “finally acting”.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran‘s supreme leader, blamed the country’s “enemies” for the riots. Khamenei is said to have met with top political leaders and security chiefs to discuss a crack down on protests. Khamenei said Tuesday that the Islamic Republic’s foes were using “different tools including cash, weapons, politics and intelligence apparatus to create troubles.” A leaked report of this meeting was given to the National Council of Resistance of Iran by senior government sources, according to Fox News. The report suggests the protests have hit the country’s economy and “threatens the regime’s security”, and added, “The first step, therefore, is to find a way out of this situation.”
On state television, Esmail Kowsari, a deputy commander for a local branch of the Revolutionary Guards, said, “We will not permit insecurity to continue in any way in Tehran. If it continues, officials will take decisions to finish it.”
Iran shut down social media in an attempt to stop unrest from spreading. Authorities blocked access to Instagram and the Telegram messaging app and Google has faced calls to lift restrictions on its services for internet users in Iran so that millions of protesters can “connect and organize”.
President Hassan Rouhani insisted that people are “absolutely free” to express their anger, but “criticism is different to violence and destroying public property.”
The demonstrations, however, were fanned in part by messages sent on social media platforms prompting a black out of some services on Sunday.
Telegram is very popular in Iran, with more than 50 per cent of the country’s population of 80 million believed to be active on the app.
CNN reported that Rouhani said in a meeting with Iranian members of parliament on Monday, “Our great nation has witnessed a number of similar incidents in the past and has comfortably dealt with them. This is nothing.”
Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, described the unrest as a “proxy war against the Iranian people”. He told local media, “Hashtags and messages about the situation in Iran come from the United States, Britain and Saudi Arabia.”
Iran’s intelligence ministry released a statement saying “instigators” have been identified “and will be dealt with seriously soon”.
Rouhani has promised to mend the economy and ease social tensions, bu many feel that progress is too slow.
The most affected are the Iranian youth, with as many as 40 percent out of work according to analysts, and rural areas particularly hard-hit. On Sunday, Rouhani said that there was “no problem bigger than unemployment” and vowed a to deliver a more balanced media and greater transparency.