Scores of protesters gathered for a second day in Iran on Sunday chanting slogans against the authorities following the military’s admission it had shot down a passenger plane in error after days denying it was to blame, social media posts showed.
The posts on Twitter could not immediately be verified by Reuters. But state-affiliated media had reported protests on Saturday night shortly after the Iranian military said it had brought down the Ukrainian plane on Wednesday and apologized.
“They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here,” protesters who had gathered in the street outside a university in Tehran chanted. They also gathered in other cities.
Huge crowds had turned out on the streets of Iranian cities to mourn Qassem Soleimani’s death, chanting “Death to America”.
But since the Ukraine International Airlines plane crashed on Wednesday - an incident Canada and the United States said early on was due to an Iranian missile albeit fired by mistake - social media has been ablaze with criticism of the establishment.
That mood bodes ill for a parliamentary election in February, when Iran’s rulers typically seek a high turnout to show their legitimacy even if the outcome will not change any major policy.
But instead they are now hearing more rumblings of discontent, after anti-government protests in November in which hundreds of people died.
“It is a very sensitive time for the establishment. They face a serious credibility problem. Not only did they conceal the truth, they also mismanaged the situation,” said a senior former official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iran’s clerics have swept aside challenges to their grip on power. But the kind of distrust between the rulers and the ruled that erupted in protests last year may now have deepened.