Iranians took to social media on Wednesday, January 15, the call for renewed protest against the Iranian leadership a week after the downing of a passenger airplane which by their admission was a mistake.
“We’re coming to the streets,” one posting circulating on social media said on Wednesday, urging people to join nationwide demonstrations against a “thieving and corrupt government”.
Protesters, with students at the forefront, have staged daily rallies in Tehran and other cities since Saturday, when after days of denials the authorities admitted bringing down a Ukrainian plane last week, killing all 176 aboard.
Most of those killed on the plane were Iranians or dual citizens, many of them students returning to studies abroad from holiday visits with their families.
It remains to be seen whether the protests will lead to sustained violence. After several days of unrest, when images posted to the internet showed demonstrators being beaten by the police and shocked with electric batons, protests on Tuesday appear to have been quieter.
Two months ago, authorities killed hundreds of demonstrators to put down protests sparked by fuel price hikes.
The plane was downed by air defences on January 8 when the armed forces were on high alert for US reprisals following tit-for-tat military strikes, the latest escalation in a crisis that has rumbled on for years over Iran’s nuclear programme.
The military and top officials apologised profusely for the “unforgivable error” that brought the plane down and said it would prosecute those to blame, in a bid to quell the outrage.
Thousands of protesters have been shown in videos gathering in the past four days in cities across Iran. Many have been outside universities. Tehran’s central Azadi Square has also been a focus. But the scale of protests and unrest is difficult to determine due to restrictions on independent reporting.
State-affiliated media has offered few details on rallies.
Police have denied shooting at protesters and say officers were told to show restraint. The judiciary said it had arrested 30 people but would show tolerance to “legal protests”.
Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency said a person who had posted a video online last week of a missile striking the plane has been taken into custody by the Revolutionary Guards, the elite force that said one of its operators shot down the plane.
Iranians were outraged the military took days to admit it had shot down Ukraine International Airlines flight 752. They asked why the plane had been allowed to take off at a time of high tension. (Source: CNA)