The Trump administration said Friday the U.S. "strongly condemns the arrest of peaceful protesters" in cities across Iran who this week are demonstrating against deficient economic conditions and government policies and officials.
Demonstrators gathered in several cities, in groups that have been reported to be less than a hundred or in the thousands, on Thursday, and according to the semi-official news agency Fars 52, protesters in the Mashad were arrested. A small number of people were also arrested in the capital of Tehran, BBC reported.
In some cases, the protesters reportedly yelled slogans critical of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the country's powerful clerics.
"The people are begging, the clerics act like God," was one slogan, according to BBC. Some chants, which can be heard in social media posts, also called for the death of several of the country's leaders.
The U.S. State Department said it is following "multiple peaceful protests by Iranian citizens in cities across the country."
"Iran’s leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos," the department said in a statement. "As President Trump has said, the longest-suffering victims of Iran's leaders are Iran’s own people."
"We urge all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption," the statement added.
The demonstrations this week are said to be the largest since those that took place in 2009 following a tense presidential election.
While testifying before Congress in June, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he supports “those elements inside of Iran that would lead to a peaceful transition of government. Those elements are there, certainly as we know.”
The State Department said Tillerson "today repeats his deep support for the Iranian people."
A statement from White House press secretary Sarah Sanders echoed that sentiment.
"There are many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with the regime’s corruption and its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad," Sanders said. "The Iranian government should respect their people’s rights, including their right to express themselves. The world is watching."