Iranian students protested against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei last week after a speech in which the supreme leader rejected the idea of holding a referendum on controversial issues in Iran.
During the speech, Khamenei referred to a statement seemingly made by one of the students in support of a referendum.
"They said that if you had held a referendum on all the issues that came up from the beginning, there would not have been that sensitivity about the referendum. Where in the world do they do this? Are the various issues of the country subject to referendum? Are all the people who should and are participating in the referendum able to analyze that issue?"Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei
"They said that if you had held a referendum on all the issues that came up from the beginning, there would not have been that sensitivity about the referendum. Where in the world do they do this? Are the various issues of the country subject to referendum? Are all the people who should and are participating in the referendum able to analyze that issue?" questioned Khamenei. "How is it possible to hold a referendum, to talk about issues that can be advertised, from all sides? In general, a country is involved in debate and discussion and polarization for six months in order to make an issue a referendum. Should we hold a referendum on all issues? That is, the cases are not such that one can [pass over them] so easily."
The supreme leader called on the students to "not be rash" and to "not nationalize a local problem."
"Sometimes an incident occurs in a corner of the country, some student organization comes to make this a national issue; it's wrong. This is to the detriment of the country," said Khamenei.
It is unclear if the supreme leader was referring to the wave of protests that swept Iran in recent months, of which many of the demonstrations took place on university campuses and high schools.
Khamenei additionally blamed Iran's "enemies" and "the malicious media" for making Iranians "pessimistic."
"It should be noted that today the enemy's design is to make us pessimistic about ourselves. [They want] to make us pessimistic about ourselves; Be pessimistic about our government, be pessimistic about our student environment, be pessimistic about our people."
During the speech, a student stood up and shouted at Khamenei "You say transparency... but every day something bad happens to people," according to BBC Persian.
After Khamenei stated that "time is up" a group of students stood up and began shouting at him. Khamenei appeared to try to start speaking again, but was cut off by the students repeatedly and eventually stated "Peace be upon you" before the video cut off.
Social media users note Iran's Islamic Republic was founded by referendum
Khamenei's comments sparked outrage on social media and on opposition-affiliated media outlets, with some users noting that the Islamic Republic headed by Khamenei was founded by a referendum in 1979.
Khamenei has also repeatedly stated that a referendum should be conducted among Palestinians and a small portion of the Jews living in Israel in order to "resolve" the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
After the speech, the Islamic Association of University Instructors called on Khamenei to "correct" his statements concerning a referendum and provide for the preparations of a referendum in Iran.
The association called Khamenei's comments "an insult to the constitution, an insult to governance based on the people and an insult to the republican system."