- Protests broke out at four universities in Tehran on Saturday after military admitted fatal blunder
- Angry crowds demanded the Ayatollah’s resignation and full investigation into the disaster
- Regime forces cracked down hard on the demonstrators, firing tear gas into the crowds
- Iranian air defenses shot down civilian passenger plane carrying 176 people, most of them Iranian citizens
- The country was on high alert after targeting US forces with ballistic missiles in bloodless strike
Iranians have gathered in the streets of Tehran to demand the resignation of Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei after the regime admitted it had mistakenly shot down a civilian passenger plane.
Angry crowds gathered on Saturday night in at least four locations in Tehran, chanting ‘death to liars’ and calling for the country’s supreme leader to step down over the tragic military blunder, video from the scene shows.
What began as mournful vigils for Iranian lives lost on the flight soon turned to outrage and protest against the regime, and riot police quickly cracked down, firing tear gas into the crowd.
‘Death to the Islamic Republic’ protesters chanted, as the regime’s security forces allegedly used ambulances to sneak heavily armed paramilitary police into the middle of crowds to disperse the demonstration.
Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 was carrying 176 people, at least 130 of them Iranian citizens, when it was shot down by hapless Iranian Revolutionary Guard air defense forces shortly after taking off from Tehran on January 8.
Iran for days claimed that a technical failure caused the crash, before admitting on Saturday that its own surface-to-air missiles brought the plane down.
Iran was on high alert at the time, hours after launching ballistic missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq in a strike that caused no casualties. That missile strike was in retaliation for a U.S. operation that killed powerful Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.
After Iran’s admission, however, Canada’s prime minister appeared to cast doubt on the claim that the shoot-down was an accident, suggesting there may have been an Iranian motive for the disaster. Many passengers were dual Canadian citizens.
On Saturday afternoon, candlelight vigils at universities in Tehran for the victims of Flight 752 began to turn to protests against the regime. Large protests were reported at the universities of Tehran, Sharif Industrial, Amir Kabir, and Allameh.
At Amirkabir University, protesters chanted ‘Down with the dictator’ and ‘shame on IRGC [Revolutionary Guard], let the country go.’
At Sharif University, crowds of outraged Iranians chanted ‘commander in chief, resign!’ The Ayatollah is Iran’s commander in chief.
‘Our enemy is right here; they lie when they say it’s the US’ protesters were heard chanting in one video.
‘I now believe the word of the Great Satan,’ one protester wrote in Persian on Twitter, apparently referring to the U.S. intelligence reports that blamed Iran for shooting the plane down, which the regime furiously denied at first.
Protesters demanded that those responsible for shooting down the civilian plane be publicly tried and held accountable.
The crowd also condemned the Islamic Republic’s paramilitary internal security force, chanting ‘Death to Basij.’
As night fell, riot police attempted to break up the protests with tear gas.
Cops armed with shields and batons tried to disperse the crowds, and police fired water canons at protesters.
Anti-regime factions said that the protests reflected the frustrations of Iranian citizens with the government corruption and oppression.
‘The protest by thousands of Iranians in Tehran burst the propaganda balloon of the regime regarding Qassem Soleimani’s elimination,’ said Shahin Gobadi, spokesman of the anti-regime group People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran, in a statement to DailyMail.com.
Gobadi said that the protests ‘showed the true sentiments of the Iranians and once again clearly proved that Iran is a powder keg and the Iranian people will not stop until the regime change.’
Iranian Brigadier General Amirali Hajizadeh, the Guards’ aerospace commander, said on Saturday a surface-to-air missile operator had mistaken the Boeing 737 for a U.S. cruise missile responding to Iranian ballistic missile attacks, and only had ten seconds to decide whether or not to open fire.
‘I wish I had died, and I wouldn’t have seen such an incident,’ Hajizadeh said somberly at a press conference. He claimed that a ‘request had been made to clear the sky from civil flights at that time, but it did not happen due to reservations.’
For days, Iran vehemently denied that it was responsible for downing Flight 752 from Tehran to Kyiv on January 8, accusing the U.S. of spreading malicious propaganda and lies for suggesting such a scenario.
Hajizadeh claimed that the country’s top military leaders were not initially aware that their own air defense system had shot the plan down, leading to confusion. Now the country has come clean, but still blames ‘US adventurism’ for the fatal ‘error’.
‘The delay in releasing information was not aimed at hiding the issue but it is the routine drill that the General Staff should study the case (first); and all information was collected on Friday morning after studies and what had happened became clear then,’ Hajizadeh said.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani extended condolences to the families of those killed in the incident, and promised that those responsible would be prosecuted.
‘The Islamic Republic of Iran deeply regrets this disastrous mistake… My thoughts and prayers go to all the mourning families. I offer my sincerest condolences,’ Rouhani said in a statement on Saturday.
He said that ‘the terrible catastrophe should be thoroughly investigated, and those responsible for this unforgivable mistake will definitely be identified and prosecuted’.
But the country’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said ‘US adventurism’ was to blame for Iran shooting down the plane, a week after an American drone killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq.
Zarif wrote: ‘A sad day. Preliminary conclusions of internal investigation by Armed Forces: Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster.
‘Our profound regrets, apologies and condolences to our people, to the families of all victims, and to other affected nations.’
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei also offered condolences to the families, as he called for an investigation and ordered the military to address ‘shortcomings’ on Saturday morning.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau cast doubt on Iran ‘s claim that it accidentally shot down the Ukrainian jet.
Trudeau said the shoot-down of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 ‘is one of the issues that we certainly need better answers to,’ during a news conference on Saturday.
‘I am, of course, outraged and furious,’ Trudeau said of the crash, adding that whether the tragedy was an accident or not still needs to be determined.