Ben Evansky, Fox News, 30 December 2017
Estimates say that up to one million Iranians have been protesting across the country since Thursday in what one Iranian opposition group says has turned into a protest for regime change.
Those protesters are being buoyed by messages from the Trump administration, says the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a coalition of democratic Iranian groups and personalities.
In two tweets earlier Saturday, President Donald Trump offered up a message of hope to the protesters: “The entire world understands that the good people of Iran want change, and, other than the vast military power of the United States, that Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most…”
Trump added: “Oppressive regimes cannot endure forever, and the day will come when the Iranian people will face a choice. The World is watching!”
Eric Shawn reports: In Iran, ‘death to the dictator!’
Anti-regime street protests grow, demanding democracy and freedom
According to reports, the protests have brought some bloodshed, with at least two people being shot and killed by Iranian Revolutionary Guards who opened fire on protesters in the city of Dorud.
In the country’s capital city of Tehran, video provided to Fox News by the NCRI showed protesters fending off tear gas from the police. Other videos show them burning posters of Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.
Chanted slogans included many calls for independence and freedom from an Islamic Republic. They also offered pointed commentary on Iranian involvement in foreign lands: “Leave Syria, think about us,” “Death to Hezbollah,” and “Forget about Gaza and Lebanon: I’ll sacrifice my life for Iran,” protesters shouted, according to the NCRI.
In Arak on Saturday, protesters occupied the governor’s office. Arak has a population of over half a million and houses a heavy water reactor that was used by its nuclear program.
“President Trump’s expression of support for the Iranian people and his condemnation of the arrests of the protests send an encouraging signal to all those who want to see Iran liberated from the yoke of the medievalist mullahs.”
While there is no word of the administration having talks with opposition parties, Ali Safavi, an official in the Washington office of the NCRI, told Fox News that messages of support from the Trump administration are a big change from how the Obama administration handled the 2009 popular uprising.
Safavi said: “When millions of Iranians poured onto the streets in 2009, the Obama administration reached out to the Supreme Leader Khamenei, enabling him and his president to suppress the uprising. President Trump’s expression of support for the Iranian people and his condemnation of the arrests of the protests send an encouraging signal to all those who want to see Iran liberated from the yoke of the medievalist mullahs.”
According a translation given to Fox News by the NCRI, Iranian media reported that Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani was quoted as asking people “to not participate in such unlawful gatherings because they cause trouble for themselves and other citizens.”
Another news agency affiliated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps was quoted as saying the chants shouted by the protesters were “very similar to the ones chanted during the 2009 sedition.”
Maryam Rajavi, the head of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, released a statement in which she saluted the bravery of the protesters. She said, in part, “The ongoing protests in different cities against the regime reveal the explosive state of Iranian society and the people’s desire for regime change.”
Rajavi’s statement said Iranian’s have loudly rejected the mullah’s regime: “The Iranian people demand the overthrow of the ruling religious dictatorship. It is their right to topple this repressive regime. And I emphasize: regime change in Iran is within reach.”