By Venus Upadhayaya, Epoch Times
Protesters took to streets in Tehran chanting “Khamenei is a murderer and Khamenei is an illegitimate ruler” on Jan. 11 after the Iranian military admitted to shooting down the Ukranian plane that carried at least 130 Iranian citizens.
The news of the protesters openly chanting slogans against Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, whom Iran designates as the “Supreme Leader” was confirmed by Al Markazia, a Lebanese Central New Agency.
Faranak Amidi, a Women’s Affairs Journalist with the BBC World Service, shared a video from one of the protest sites on her Twitter on Saturday. The protesters in the video chanted in chorus: “Today is a day to mourn. The abandoned Iranians are mourning today.”
دریافتی ازاصفهان، سیوسه پل، امشب.
عزا عزاست امروز روز عزاست امروز، ایرانی بیپناه صاحب عزاست امروز. pic.twitter.com/ER4Y1aZsUe
— Faranak Amidi (@Faranak_amidi) January 11, 2020
The protests on Saturday afternoon began as mournful gatherings for the Iranian lives lost in the crash and soon turned into people chanting “death to liars” and seeking Khamenei’s resignation, reported the Daily Mail.
Protests at the Amirkabir University chanted “Down with the dictator’ and “shame on IRGC [Iranian Revolutionary Guard], let the country go” while at the Sharif University protesters said, “commander in chief, resign!” It referred to Khamenei.
Protesters in Rasht in northern Iran chanted “you have no shame” according to a video shared on Twitter.
— اردوی کار (@ordoyekar) January 11, 2020
In another Twitter video from a candle vigil site at an engineering school in the province of Shiraz, the protesters were singing a revolutionary song “My Grade-School Friend,” which encourages people to rise up against tyranny.
— اردوی کار (@ordoyekar) January 11, 2020
President Trump expressed his support for the protesters on Twitter, writing: “To the brave and suffering Iranian people: I have stood with you since the beginning of my presidency and my government will continue to stand with you. We are following your protests closely. Your courage is inspiring.”
به مردم شجاع و رنج کشیده ایران: من از ابتدای دوره ریاست جمهوریم با شما ایستادهام و دولت من همچنان با شما خواهد ایستاد. ما اعتراضات شما را از نزدیک دنبال می کنیم. شجاعت شما الهام بخش است.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2020
Daily Mail reports that riot police tried to disperse the protesters by using tear gas during the night.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on Saturday acknowledged that it accidentally shot down the Ukrainian jetliner that crashed earlier this week, killing all 176 people aboard, after the government had repeatedly denied Western accusations and mounting evidence that it was responsible.
The plane was shot down early Wednesday, hours after Iran launched a ballistic missile attack on two military bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani in an American airstrike in Baghdad. No one was hurt in the attack on the U.S. bases.
General Amir Ali Hajizadeh, the head of the Guard’s aerospace division, said his unit accepts full responsibility for the shootdown. In an address broadcast by state TV, he said that when he learned about the downing of the plane, “I wished I was dead.”
He said he raised the possibility to his superiors that his forces shot down the plane as early as Wednesday morning because “the simultaneous occurrence of the launch and crash was suspicious.”
The admission undermined the credibility of information provided by senior officials, who for three days had adamantly dismissed allegations of a missile strike as Western propaganda.
Esra Serim, a Turkish Middle East expert based in France, told The Epoch Times in an email that Khamenei has offered an investigation into the crash “but it will not be enough for the families of the victims.”
“They would make an appeal for an international investigation. In addition to this, the Iranian government has obviously fallen into its own trap by shooting the passenger plane. This accident would likely lead to an increase in the recent domestic tensions against the regime,” said Serim.
Sam Bazzi, the founder of Hezbollah Watch, a project that scrutinizes Khomeini’s absolute guardianship, said the protests indicate a popular revolt in the making.
“The regime has for a long time accorded a certain level of divinity to ‘Supreme Leader’ Ali Khamenei, only for him to be left bare by the Ukrainian airliner incident. When an absolute ruler starts losing his prestige and standing, a popular revolt is not an unexpected outcome,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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