As anti-government protests swept Iran in the aftermath of the downing of a Ukrainian plane, students from Tehran avoided walking on massive American and Israel flags placed on the road in front of them.
Videos circulated on social media showed Iranian students parting as they approached the large flags, taking pains to avoid stepping on them. A few people who did walk over the flags were booed by protesters in the area with chants of "Shame on you."
Some reports said that the protesters near the flags chanted "Our enemy is in Iran, not America."
Hillel Neuer, the executive director of the NGO UN Watch, tweeted in response "these courageous Iranian students who refuse to trample the US & Israeli flags represent the hope for a better Middle East."
US President Donald Trump welcomed the news on Monday, tweeting "the wonderful Iranian protesters refused to step on, or in any way denigrate, our Great American Flag. It was put on the street in order for them to trample it, and they walked around it instead."
Trump called the efforts by the protesters "Big progress!"
Protests spread throughout Tehran and multiple other Iranian cities after the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) took responsibility on Saturday for the downing of a Ukrainian civilian airliner on Wednesday, killing all on board.
Families of the Iranian victims from the Ukrainian plane have reportedly been warned not to speak to foreign media at risk of not receiving their relatives' bodies, according to Al-Arabiya. Similar threats to withhold relatives' bodies were used during anti-government protests in November.
Robert Macaire, the British ambassador to Tehran, was arrested by security forces amid protesters in Tehran, but was released after a few hours, according to Radio Farda. The ambassador "began to provoke and organize the protesters and was arrested inside a shop after security forces became suspicious of him," according to the Iranian Tasnim news agency. He allegedly filmed the protests.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab stated on Saturday that Macaire's arrest "without grounds or explanation is a flagrant violation of international law."
"The Iranian government is at a crossroads moment. It can continue its march towards pariah status with all the political and economic isolation that entails, or take steps to deescalate tensions and engage in a diplomatic path forwards," added Raab.
Informed sources told Iran International that civilian flights were allowed on the night of the IRGC's missile attack against US bases in Iraq as a "human shield measure."
Videos of the protests showed demonstrators
shouting with chants against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the regime at large. Security forces are present and have used some anti-riot measures such as tear gas, but so far no casualties have been reported. Internet may have been shut off in some parts of Tehran. Some reports claimed that protesters in Tehran tore up pictures of former IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani.
Former speaker of the Iranian Parliament Mehdi Karroubi told Khamenei in a letter that "Undoubtedly, you are not qualified for the leadership as is required by the Constitution," according to Radio Farda.
Karroubi also blamed Khamenei for the suppression and murder of protesters in November, vote-rigging in the 2009 presidential elections and political chain murders from 1988 to 1998. Karroubi has been under house arrest since 2011.