Tehran accused US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence of inciting Iranians to protest against the government
through a series of tweets and described US interference in Iranian issues as “grotesque.”
It also pointed to a US State Department official’s Tuesday statement that the United States was communicating with anti-government protesters through its Facebook and Twitter pages in Farsi, and was encouraging them to demonstrate.
“The President and vice president of the United States, in their numerous absurd tweets, incited Iranians to engage in disruptive acts,” the letter sent overnight reads. “The US Department of State went so far as admitting that the US government wants to encourage protesters in Iran to change their government, admitting that the US is engaged in interfering with the internal affairs of Iran through Facebook and Twitter.”
The State Department is monitoring the protests, which it said are the product of Iranians’ desire for dignified treatment, snuffing out corruption, more government transparency, better economic opportunities and an end to “military adventurism abroad,” department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement.
The US condemns the deaths of protesters and what the State Department said were more than 1,000 arrests, Nauert said. “The government continues to imprison and kill those who are brave enough to venture into the street. It is limiting the flow of information into Iran, restricting free speech, and attempting to prevent the outside world from observing its own repression,” her statement said. “We support these legitimate aspirations of the Iranian people, and call on the government to allow the free exchange of ideas and information.”
The statement closed, vowing, “To the regime’s victims, we say: You will not be forgotten.”
Nauert’s statement came on the same day the State Department redesignated Iran and nine other nations as “countries of particular concern” for alleged violations of religious freedom.
“We recognize that several designated countries are working to improve their respect for religious freedom; we welcome these initiatives and look forward to continued dialogue,” the State Department said of the redesignations.
State Department Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Steve Goldstein said on Tuesday that Iranians were using virtual private networks to access Facebook and Twitter pages where the department was communicating with protesters.
The Iranian government restricted access to social media at the height of the protests over the weekend, but many Iranians also use VPNs so the government cannot track their online activity.
“We want to encourage the protesters to continue to fight for what’s right and to open up Iran,” Goldstein said.
He said social media apps were “legitimate avenues of communication.” “And people in Iran and throughout should be able to access those sites.”
The anti-government protests, the most powerful challenge to the regime in years, appeared to have fizzled Thursday, after a claim by Revolutionary Guards commander Mohammad Ali Jafari that the unrest was officially over.