In response to the spread of anti-government protests in the country, the Iranian government warned citizens on Saturday to avoid “illegal gatherings.” The protests in Iran reportedly continued on Saturday in what began as economic frustration but has since become the country’s largest public demonstration of dissent against the government since 2009.

Protests in Iran on Thursday

Protests in Iran on Thursday Photo Credit: Screenshot

Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli urged citizens on Saturday to avoid participating in “illegal gatherings” as doing so will create problems for themselves and others. It is the first official response from the government to the ongoing protests that have been spreading throughout the country since Thursday.

The protests began amid growing frustration among the population due to rising prices and the government’s foreign policy that comes at the expense of the people. Since then, the demonstrations took a turn towards more a general anti-government tone and have spread to hundreds of Iranian cities, including the capital Tehran. According to various Iranian reports, pro-government counter-protesters took to the streets in Tehran and were seen holding signs supporting the country’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei.

US President Donald Trump’s addressed the issue in a post on his Twitter account on Friday night, warning the Iranian government that that the “world is watching” the regime, which he called corrupted.“Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption and its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad,” wrote Trump. “Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including right to express themselves. The world is watching!”

The protests in Iran, which reportedly continued Saturday in a third day of rallies, are said to be the most significant the country has experienced since 2009, when the pro-reform protests shook the country. On Friday, at least 50 people were reportedly arrested in Iran’s second-largest city Mashhad and several in the capital.

In footage that has been circulating on social media, protesters are heard shouting anti-government slogans such as “death to the dictator” and “death to Rouhani.” Demonstrators were also seen holding signs bearing the slogans “forget Syria, think of us” and “don’t be afraid, we are all together.”