Rouhani fires back at Trump

Iranian President responds to Trump's backing of protests, says he has no right to sympathize with protesters after calling them terrorists.

Elad Benari ,

Hassan Rouhani
Hassan Rouhani

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday responded to U.S. President Donald Trump, who said earlier that the Iranian regime was “squandering” its funds on terrorism abroad, and said this led to the riots and subsequent government crackdown in the country.

“Big protests in Iran,” Trump tweeted Sunday. “The people are finally getting wise as to how their money and wealth is being stolen and squandered on terrorism. Looks like they will not take it any longer. The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!”

Later on Sunday, Trump tweeted again, this time mentioning the Iranian regime’s cutting off internet access to protesters.

“Iran, the Number One State of Sponsored Terror with numerous violations of Human Rights occurring on an hourly basis, has now closed down the Internet so that peaceful demonstrators cannot communicate. Not good!”

Speaking for the first time about the violent protests in the country, Rouhani said Trump had "no right" to sympathize with Iranian protesters who he has previously called terrorists.

"This man who today in America wants to sympathize with our people has forgotten that a few months ago he called the nation of Iran terrorist," Rouhani told a cabinet meeting, according to the AFP news agency.

"This person whose whole being is against the nation of Iran has no right to feel pity for the people of Iran," he added.

Rouhani further said that government bodies must provide "space for criticism" but warned protesters that violence was unacceptable.

"Criticism is different to violence and destroying public property," he said, adding, "Government bodies should provide space for legal criticism and protest.”

The protests against economic conditions began in Mashhad on Thursday before quickly spreading across the country and turning against the Islamic regime as a whole.

On Saturday it was reported that three protesters were killed during a demonstration in Iran's Loerstan province, though that incident was not officially confirmed.

"The point should be made clear to everyone that we are a free nation and according to the constitution... the people are absolutely free in expressing their criticisms and even protests," Rouhani said Sunday, according to AFP.

"At the same time we should not allow for an atmosphere to be created in which the supporters of the revolution and the people are worried about their lives and security," he added.

Rouhani, who was re-elected in May on promises of boosting the economy and improving civil liberties, said people were demanding more transparency.

He said state broadcaster IRIB should better reflect different opinions after criticism in recent days that the media has been stifled.

"The resolving of some issues is not easy and it will take time and the government and the nation must join hands to solve them," said the Iranian president.