Social media accounts in Iran were full of videos and blogs detailing further protests in Iran overnight into Thursday, despite a ranking military official insisting a day earlier that a week of anti-government demonstrations had come to an end.
One video showed people chanting against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
News agency Tasmin also reported 28 arrests in Birjand for illegal assembly. The reports could not be independently verified.
Additionally, there were reports of an EU resident being arrested in the western city of Borujerd.
Hamid-Rest Bolhassani, the city’s top judicial official, confirmed the arrest. The suspect allegedly was trained by European intelligence services and sent to Borujerd to help manage the protests, Bolhassani told Tasnim.
He did not say from which country the man came and whether the person also had Iranian citizenship.
Khamenei and other hard-liners in the country’s theocratic leadership have insisted for days that the protests are being fomented by foreign powers.
President Hassan Rowhani has dismissed such charges, saying that some leaders are not willing to understand that the protesters have grass-roots complaints about jobs and freedoms.
In an effort to show that the government still has the support of the people, pro-government rallies were organized in Tehran on Wednesday, drawing hundreds of thousands and garnering significant TV coverage.
Participants in the pro-government rally chanted slogans disparaging the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel – three of the countries accused of being behind the recent bout of protests.
Those claims have been bolstered by US President Donald Trump, who has tweeted his support for the protesters and his worries that the government could shut them down almost every day since the protests started.
One lawmaker said Trump’s contributions were unhelpful, just like similar statements from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“These actions only lead to those responsible not being able to see reality and the voice of the people not being properly reflected,” wrote Mahmoud Sadegh on Twitter on Thursday.
A Thursday scan of social media drew in reports of protests in the cities of Nowshahr, Bandar Abbas, Ahvaz and Dezful. The protests have so far been concentrated in the provinces and barely made headway in bigger cities.
They seem to have started as protests on economic and foreign policy, but have become more anti-government as time has passed.
Precise information about the marches is difficult to obtain.
State media report little, if anything, about them, while authorities have shut down or slowed the internet at peak protest times to block the spread of information.
Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli on Thursday downplayed the number of protesters who have participated in the anti-government marches over the last week.
“The relevant authorities have reported that there have been, at most, 42,000 people, and that is not a very high number,” the minister told the ISNA news agency.
Because many of the protests have been by small groups spread across multiple cities, an exact count has been hard to tally. However, some observers say that the 42,000 figure seems too small.
Fazli also said he does not think the protests were prompted by economic concerns. However, he said more investigation is necessary to establish the true cause.
“That is the only way you can properly estimate and deal with this effectively,” he said.(dpa/NAN)