Two days into a weeklong series of demonstrations throughout Iran, President Donald Trump shared his perspective on the subject in less than 280 characters on Twitter—and, for once, he was right. Amongst criticisms of the regime, he warned “The world is watching!” Indeed, the protests captured global media attention for several days, though they were not enough to compel middle-class Tehranis to take action.

The demonstrations were the largest Iran had seen since the 2009 Green Movement following the allegedly illegitimate re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. In 2009, thousands took to the streets of major Iranian cities calling for Ahmadinejad’s resignation. The unauthorized protests that occurred on December 28, on the other hand, began in the conservative, holy Muslim city of Mashhad, where residents initially expressed their frustration with current President Hassan Rouhani.

Rouhani, a moderate and reformist, was re-elected in May with promises to revitalize Iran’s declining economy. The same month, Caspian Finance and Credit Institution, one of many significant Iranian financial institutions to fail in a span of months due to corruption and mismanagement, closed. This situation left thousands of working-class Iranians without their savings or compensation. These were the people—ignored by their government and left with little hope—who rightfully began demonstrating in Mashhad. Many Tehranis, however, still believed in Rouhani as the country’s best shot at progress.

As their numbers grew, protesters’ reasons for opposition grew; they denounced the culpable Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and demanded that he “let the country go.” By December 30, annual pro-government rallies in numerous cities had been surpassed by angry crowds cheering, “death to the dictator” (Khamenei).

Police responded with tear gas and arrested thousands. The Revolutionary Guards—the same group that brutally suppressed the 2009 riots—warned protesters that Iran “will not allow the country to be hurt.” What they failed to realize, though, was the lack of distinction between a country and its people. By the end of the demonstrations in January, 25 protesters had been killed across the nation.

The middle class of Tehran, which so passionately assembled in 2009, was underrepresented in these protests. Some attribute the lack of action in the capital to the more sophisticated city-dwellers’ disapproval of the violent, impromptu demonstrations. Unlike the Green Movement, these protests did not initially have a clear goal. In reality, the reason for many Tehranis’ silence was simply that their fear of instability in Iran exceeded their frustration with the regime and economy. Although the failing economy has had implications for all, such as inflation or increased prices for basic commodities, it has not hit the urban upper-middle class as much as working-class towns. This was undoubtedly a factor behind why the recent protests were concentrated in rural areas.

The protests of late 2017 indicated the severe degree of economic and political discontent within demographics from which leaders of Iran had previously expected support. Hopefully, their outcry will prompt the government to enact real change to improve financial situations and increase general freedoms. Iranians have always been willing to protest wrongdoings without the legal right to do so, but now the regime is obligated to listen.