Protesters in the Islamic Republic of Iran staged large-scale demonstrations over the weekend, with some demanding the resignation of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the nation’s top official.
The protests were sparked by the recent admission by the Islamic Republic that they had accidentally shot down a Ukrainian plane, killing all 176 passengers, most of whom were Iranian.
Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the capital Tehran, with police using teargas on the demonstrators. By Sunday morning, both sides had stepped up their presence, according to AFP.
“Apologize and resign,” declared the Iranian publication Etemad daily, as reported by AFP, which also noted that a similar demand was carried in an editorial published by the daily news source Jomhuri-ye Eslami.
“Those who delayed publishing the reason behind the plane crash and damaged people’s trust in the establishment should be dismissed or should resign,” stated the editorial, according to AFP.
President Donald Trump sent out a series of tweets, two in English and two in Farsi, expressing his support for the protesters and demanding that the government not harm them.
“To the leaders of Iran - DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS. Thousands have already been killed or imprisoned by you, and the World is watching,” tweeted Trump.
“More importantly, the USA is watching. Turn your internet back on and let reporters roam free! Stop the killing of your great Iranian people!”
The most recent tensions began when U.S. forces killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani while he was in Iraq. According to the U.S., he was planning attacks on American soldiers.
Iran responded by launching a series of missile attacks on positions in Iraq. While no American casualties were reported, one missile took out a Boeing 737 aircraft of Ukraine International Airlines soon after takeoff from Tehran International Airport.
Initially, the Iranian regime claimed that it was the result of engine failure and the pilot losing control of the plane.
The current protests and calls for Khamenei’s resignation come not long after the Islamic Republic experienced a wave of large-scale protests both in 2018 and last November.
According to a U.S. State Department report released last month, Iranian authorities may have killed as many as 1,000 unarmed protesters during the November demonstrations alone.
“And as the truth is trickling out of Iran, it appears the regime could have murdered over a thousand Iranian citizens since the protests began,” said Brian Hook, senior advisor to the Secretary of State, in a statement in December.
“We cannot be certain because the regime blocks information. Among those murdered are at least a dozen children, including 13 and 14-year-olds.”