Hundreds of protesters gathered in front of the Amir Kabir University in Tehran on Saturday, January 11, chanting “Commander-in-chief [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] resign, resign,” after the Iranian government admitted to mistakenly shooting down a Ukrainian plane, killing all 176 people on board.
Others took their frustrations to Twitter, asking why the plane was even allowed to take off when tensions in Iran were so high.
Earlier on Saturday, Iran said its military had shot down the Ukrainian plane, calling it a “disastrous mistake”.
The military claimed air defences were fired in error during an alert which was imposed after Iranian missile struck US targets in Iraq.
Iran denied for days after Wednesday’s crash that it brought down the plane, although a top Revolutionary Guards commander said on Saturday he had told authorities about the unintentional missile strike the day it happened.
Speaking from Tehran, Al Jazeera Dorsa Jabbari said, “There is a lot of anger. Iranians are demanding justice and accountability. Many people including families of the victims are in shock. They do not understand why their government would have lied to them for this long.”
“Vigils that were held near Amir Kabir University quickly turned into anti-government protests with people calling for the IRGC to leave the country,” she said.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, in a rare step, apologised to the nation and accepted full responsibility for the plane crash.
Senior Guards commander Amirali Hajizadeh said he had informed Iran’s authorities on Wednesday about the unintentional strike, a comment that raised questions about why officials had publicly denied it for so long.
Speaking on state television, he said he wished “I could die” when he heard the news about the incident.
Ukraine demanded an official apology and compensation. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called for “a complete and thorough investigation” with Iran’s full cooperation.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter that “human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster”, citing an initial armed forces investigation into the crash.
A military statement said the plane flew close to a sensitive Revolutionary Guards site at a time of high alert.
But Ukraine said the plane was in a normal flight corridor. Iran’s Civil Aviation Organisation also said the airliner had not veered off its normal course.
Ukraine International Airlines said Iran should have closed the airport, adding that it received no indication it faced a threat and was cleared for take-off.
Iran’s leadership last faced mass protests in November following the rise in petrol prices. (Source: News24)