US President Donald Trump on Tuesday appeared to distance himself from the anti-government protesters in Iran, but later issued a clarification that he supports the demonstrators.
Trump, speaking in London where he is attending the NATO leaders summit, was asked if he supports the Iranian protesters against a government-imposed gas hike, in nationwide demonstrations that have drawn a brutal response in which hundreds have been killed.
He responded: “I don’t want to comment on that but the answer is no.”
A short while later, the US president clarified his comments to reporters, and tweeted his backing for their cause.
“We do support them totally and have supported them from the beginning,” said Trump, adding that he had misheard the question, thinking he was being asked was about financial support.
The United States of America supports the brave people of Iran who are protesting for their FREEDOM. We have under the Trump Administration, and always will!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2019
“Iran is killing thousands and thousands of people right now as we speak,” Trump also told reporters.
He added they were killed “for the mere fact that they’re protesting,” calling it a “terrible thing.”
Trump was mum on what, if anything, the US could do in response to the violence, but said, “I think the world has to be watching.”
Amnesty International said on Monday it believes at least 208 people were killed in the protests and the crackdown that followed. Iranian state television on Tuesday acknowledged for the first time that security forces shot and killed what it described as “rioters” in multiple cities amid recent protests over the spike in government-set gasoline prices.
The protests are viewed as a reflection of widespread economic discontent gripping the country since Trump reimposed nuclear sanctions on Iran last year.
Trump encouraged reporters “to get in there and see what’s going on,” noting that the Iranian government has curtailed internet access to limit the spread of information about the violence.