It’s certainly the first time in U.S. presidential history that this has happened: President Donald Trump tweeted in Persian. The president was directing his tweet toward a group of protesters who have taken on the Iranian regime in anger over the downing of Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752.
Protests have erupted in Iran against the Ayatollah Khamenei regime – as shown on dramatic videos and photos that also hit Twitter – after Iran admitted shooting down the Ukrainian jetliner. The plane carried 176 people, many of them Iranians, some of them students.
News reports varied in the number of people protesting outside Amirkabir university, from hundreds to thousands. However, Trump was clearly hoping to spur on the protests.
Things got so heated that the British ambassador in Tehran, Robert Macaire, was detained but released at the protests, according to Radio Farda and the British foreign secretary.
Here’s what you need to know about Trump’s Persian tweet:
Trump Wrote to the Iranian People That His Administration Would ‘Continue to Stand With You’
Trump’s first Persian tweet came on January 11, 2020 as the protest news hit Twitter. President Trump then wrote the same tweet in English, “To the brave, long-suffering people of Iran: I’ve stood with you since the beginning of my Presidency, and my Administration will continue to stand with you. We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage.”
Trump followed that up with a second tweet in Persian, also known as Farsi:
He wrote in English, “The government of Iran must allow human rights groups to monitor and report facts from the ground on the ongoing protests by the Iranian people. There can not be another massacre of peaceful protesters, nor an internet shutdown. The world is watching.”
Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of Iran Human Rights.org, an organization which documents human rights abuses in the country, wrote on Twitter. “Today’s protests as well as November’s mass uprising shows Iranian people are fed up with their leaders’ never ending pattern of incompetence, lies, and coverups at all levels. Potentials of generation after generation squashed. #IranProtests.”
Meanwhile, the British ambassador was detained but released at the protest.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in response, “The arrest of our Ambassador in Tehran without grounds or explanation is a flagrant violation of international law. The Iranian government is at a cross-roads moment. It can continue its march towards pariah status with all the political and economic isolation that entails, or take steps to deescalate tensions and engage in a diplomatic path forwards.”
Protests Erupted Outside Amirkabir University as People Chanted ‘Death to the Liars’ & Demanded the Resignation of Ayatollah Khamenei
According to Times of Israel, the Iranian protests centered around Amirkabir University, where people changed things like “Death to the dictator,” “Shame on you Khamenei, leave the country,” “Death to the liars,” and “Shame on the Revolutionary Guards, let the country go.”
They also called on Khamenei to resign. The Abdorrahman Boroumand Center, which promotes human rights in Iran, wrote on Twitter, “Chants from tonight’s #IranProtests at Sharif University: Don’t call us traitors, you’re the treason, oppressor, all these years of crime, death to this state! Khamenei is a murderer, his state is illegitimate! The Revolutionary Guards commit crime, the Leader protects them!” Here’s video:
A number of people who died on the doomed plane were students returning to Canada, according to BBC. In all, 176 people died in the plane crash.
Journalist Rudi Bakhtiar wrote on Twitter, “In #Iran today protesters tear down poster of #Khamenei and #Soleimani during anti government protests after #IslamicRepublic admits it mistakenly downed a #Ukrainian Jetliner killing 176 people.”
The Abdorrahman Boroumand Center wrote, “Iranians are calling for mass mourning rallies tomorrow, Sunday in every Iranian city after authorities admitted to shooting down a plane of 176 people, mostly Iranian.”
The center shared the following video and wrote, “Here they confront security forces coming to disperse protest of grieving students. ‘Without honor,’ they chant.” Videos showed police in riot gear.
NBC News reported that the group of protesters included students and “middle-class professionals.”
Hadi Ghaemi wrote: “Deeply disturbed by videos showing people at Amirkabir University in Tehran being beaten and tear-gassed. Their chants are against the state’s incompetence and cruelty. Iranians have constituonal (sic) right to peaceful protest without threat of state violence.”
Videos emerged that appeared to show tear gas being used.
CNN reported that, according to Iranian media, the protest emerged out a mass vigil for the airplane victims, and Iranian police “dispersed students who entered and blocked main roads.”
Iran Now Admits Shooting Down the Ukrainian Plane
Ukraine’s Foreign minister has said that 82 Iranians and 63 Canadians were on board the Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, which was headed from Tehran to Kiev, when Iran shot it down. According to BBC, other victims included people from Ukraine, Afghanistan, Great Britain, and Germany.
BBC reports that, since Iran said 147 people on the plane were Iranian, many people on board might have held dual nationalities.
FARS, which is Iran’s semi-official news agency, wrote, “The General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces said in a statement on Saturday that the Ukrainian Boeing 737 plane was shot down as a hostile object due to human error at a time of heightened US threats of war.”
The story added: “An expert investigation by the General Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces after the Ukrainian airline company’s Boeing 737 incident has found that flight 752 of the Ukrainian airlines has been shot down as a hostile flying object that was approaching a sensitive IRGC center and was shot down due to human error few hours after Iran’s missile attack on the US and as Iran’s military was expecting attacks by the US army.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a statement: “Armed Forces’ internal investigation has concluded that regrettably missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane & death of 176 innocent people. Investigations continue to identify & prosecute this great tragedy & unforgivable mistake. The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake. My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences.”
He added, in a statement posted to his official Twitter account: “The tragedy of the stampede at Gen. Soleimani’s funeral in Kerman and the crash of a Ukrainian passenger plane in Tehran that killed numerous Iranians, including a group of students, as well as other nationalities, deeply saddens all Iranians. May they rest in peace.”
Iran’s armed forces headquarters released this statement, according to CNN: “The aircraft came close to a sensitive IRGC military center at an altitude and flight condition that resembled hostile targeting. Under these circumstances, the aircraft was unintentionally hit, which unfortunately resulted in death of the many Iranian and foreign nationals.”
Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, wrote on Twitter, “A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigation by Armed Forces: Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster. Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations. ?”
READ NEXT: The Crash of Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752.