US envoy Malley lambasted for saying Iranians protesting for ‘respect’ from regime

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US Special Envoy for Iran Robert Malley came under fire on Twitter on Sunday after tweeting that protesters in Iran have been demonstrating for “respect” from the Iranian regime.

“Marchers in Washington and cities around the world are showing their support for the Iranian people, who continue to peacefully demonstrate for their government to respect their dignity and human rights,” Malley wrote on Twitter.

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Malley’s tweet prompted a backlash from hundreds of Iranian users who noted that Iranian protesters have been calling for the downfall of the regime, not for the regime to respect their rights. Others called on Malley to resign.

Anti-government protests sparked by the death in police custody of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini have rocked Iran for the past five weeks.

The protests quickly escalated and turned political with demonstrations taking place country-wide. Protesters have been chanting against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and calling for regime change.

“To be clear, the protestors in Iran are not just demonstrating for their government to respect their dignity and human rights,” Iranian-born Hollywood actress and activist Nazanin Boniadi, who recently met with State Department officials - including Malley - to discuss the protests, wrote on Twitter.

“They are saying “death to the dictator,” and “death to the Islamic Republic.” They don’t want reforms. They want an end to theocracy. Plain and simple,” she added.

Malley’s statement was “absolutely unacceptable,” Iranian American journalist Yashar Ali said on Twitter.

He added: “Iranians are fighting for their freedom from the Islamic Republic. Iranians are calling for the Islamic Republic to end. Who approved this statement??”

Columnist and commentator Bobby Ghosh said Malley’s statement was a “poorly phrased” one.

“The Iranian people are not asking for “their government to respect their dignity…” They are saying this is NOT their government, and are calling for its downfall,” Ghosh wrote on Twitter.

“If a diplomat feels he can’t say exactly what the people are demanding (although I can’t imagine why) he shouldn’t misrepresent their demands.”

Malley is an unpopular figure among many Iranians opposed to the Islamic Republic who view him as overly lenient with the Iranian regime.

Iranian dissidents accuse Malley of prioritising reaching a nuclear deal with Tehran over human rights.

Malley was a key member of former President Barack Obama’s team that negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Washington withdrew from the deal in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, reimposing sweeping sanctions on Tehran.

Malley has spearheaded indirect talks with Iran aimed at restoring the 2015 deal since April 2021. Those talks are currently at an impasse.

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