Ukrainian Aeroplane Shooting, Iranian Media: ‘Shame’ and ‘Unforgivable’ – Iran’s leaders are facing pressure to sack officials responsible for shooting down a Ukrainian plane that left 176 people dead, after the military admitted it had hit the plane, although it denied this.
The call was made by Iranians during a demonstration on Saturday (11/01) and a follow-up action on Sunday (12/01) which was attended by thousands of people from various elements of society, especially students in the capital, Tehran.
They also demanded answers as to why the authorities did not admit from the start that they had made a fatal mistake, but instead tried to dismiss the allegations. They accused officials of being “liar” because they denied allegations that they had deliberately shot down the passenger plane of the Ukrainian airline.
Ukrainian Aeroplane Shooting, Iranian Media: ‘Shame’ and ‘Unforgivable’
A number of newspapers covered mass prayers for the victims in Tehran and other cities on Saturday night (11/01) and ran with headlines such as “Shame” and “Unforgivable”.
US President Donald Trump posted support for “inspiring” protesters via his personal Twitter account.
On Saturday, Iran admitted it “accidentally” shot down a plane, three days after the crash that killed 176 people.
The plane, flight PS752, bound for Kiev, was shot down Wednesday near Imam Khomeini Airport in Tehran shortly after takeoff, and just hours after Iran fired missiles at two US army airbases in Iraq.
The attack was Iran’s response to the assassination of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani in a US-launched air strike in Baghdad on January 3.
Dozens of Iranian and Canadian nationals, as well as Ukrainians, British, Afghans and Germans died in the plane crash.
What happened at the demonstration?
Initially, students gathered outside the two universities, Sharif and Amir Kabir, to honor the victims, local media reported. The demonstration turned into a form of expression of their anger towards Saturday night.
The semi-official Fars news agency, unusually, reported on the demonstration and said 1,000 people had shouted chants criticizing high-ranking officials and tearing up pictures of Soleimani.
The students demanded that those responsible for the shooting down of the plane and those who covered up the action be brought to justice. The chants included “supreme commander resigning” in reference to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and “death to liars”.
Fars said police had “dispersed” the protesters, who blocked the road. Images circulating on social media showed tear gas had also been fired.
Social media users also expressed anger at the government’s actions. One said on Twitter: “I will not forgive the authorities of my country, the people who were at the scene and have lied.”
For three days, Iran denied allegations that its missile fire had caused the plane to crash. One spokesman instead accused Western countries of “lying and engaging in psychological warfare”. But on Saturday morning, the national TV station broadcast a statement acknowledging the plane had been shot down.
Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the air commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, explained what had happened. He said the missile operator acted without orders and suspected the plane was a “missile” fired at Iran as some reports refer to. “He has 10 seconds to decide. He can decide to attack or not to attack under such circumstances, he makes a good decision,”
“He is required to communicate and get verification. But apparently, there is a problem with the communication system.” Hajizadeh said the military would improve the existing system to avoid similar mistakes in the future. He said he hoped to “just die” after being told about the missile strike. Hajizadeh said he had reported it to the relevant authorities about what happened on Wednesday. This statement raises the question of why Iran has denied involvement for several days.
Ayatollah Khamenei said there was “evidence of human error”, while President Hassan Rouhani said Iran “deeply regrets the fatal mistake”. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif blamed the US. “Human error in the midst of a crisis caused by US actions led to this accident,” he said.