US President Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and their son Barron arrive for a new year's party at Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on December 31, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM)
WASHINGTON, United States — US President Donald Trump said Monday it was “time for change” in Iran and that the country’s people were “hungry” for freedom, after days of deadly protests against the government in Tehran.
“Iran is failing at every level despite the terrible deal made with them by the Obama Administration,” Trump tweeted, referring to the nuclear pact sealed under his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.
“The great Iranian people have been repressed for many years. They are hungry for food & for freedom. Along with human rights, the wealth of Iran is being looted. TIME FOR CHANGE!”
Trump has been vocal on Twitter about the protests in Iran since they erupted last week.
“The world is watching!” he said, reposting clips of his speech to the United Nations General Assembly in September.
“Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice,” he tweeted, quoting from the speech.
But Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hit back, saying the US leader — whose “whole being is against the nation of Iran — had “no right” to sympathize with protesters.
Ten people were killed overnight in Iran, local media reported, bringing the death toll after four days of protests to 12.
The protests began as demonstrations against economic conditions in second city Mashhad on Thursday but quickly turned against the Islamic regime as a whole, with thousands marching in towns across Iran to chants of “Death to the dictator.”
After initial silence, state media began showing some footage of the demonstrations on Sunday, focusing on young men attacking banks and vehicles, an attack on a town hall in Tehran, and images of a man burning the Iranian flag.
“Those who damage public property, disrupt order and break the law must be responsible for their behavior and pay the price,” Interior Minister Abdolrahman Rahmani Fazli said on Sunday.
There have been reminders of the continued support for the regime among conservative sections of society, with pro-regime students staging sizable counter-demonstrations at the University of Tehran over the weekend.
Rouhani came to power in 2013 promising to mend the economy and ease social tensions, but high living costs and a 12 percent unemployment rate have left many feeling that progress is too slow.
“We have no problem bigger than unemployment. Our economy needs an operation. We must all stand together,” Rouhani said on Monday.
Since the ruthless repression of the 2009 protests against a disputed presidential election that gave hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a second term, many middle-class Iranians have abandoned hope of securing change from the streets.
But low-level strikes and demonstrations have continued, with groups such as bus drivers, teachers and factory workers regularly protesting against unpaid wages and poor conditions.
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