Iranian protests have broken out across Tehran on Saturday demanding the resignation of Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, 80, for shooting down a civilian passenger plane that killed 176 passengers. Killed on board were 82 Iranians and 63 Canadians, nine Ukrainians, four Britons, four Afghans, and three Germans, many of which who had dual citizenship in Iran.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard air defense forces hit Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 with missiles on January 8. Initially, Iranian authorities denied being responsible for shooting down the plane and tried to blame the United States. The missile strike was in retaliation for the death of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani who was killed 5 days earlier by US airstrikes in Iraq.
Here we go. Video footage of an Iranian Tor M1 missile bringing down the 737-800, Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752. This certainly contradicts Iran's "engine failure" narrative. pic.twitter.com/CyMjASAlFI
— Ian Miles Cheong (@stillgray) January 9, 2020
Iranian citizens filled the streets with signs across Tehran and held huge demonstrations demanding that Ayatollah Khamenei step down and resign as the leader of Iran. Universities across Tehran also joined in the demonstrations, leaving classes and taking over campuses.
Students at Sharif University shouted, “our enemy was right here, they lie to us and say its the United States.” Students continued shouting, “commander in chief, resign. The Ayatollah is Iran’s commander in chief.”
Students at Amirkabir University are also demanding not only that the Ayatollah step down as ruler but that arrests should be made for the deaths of all the passengers on Flight 752. Students chanted, “down with the dictator” and also that the Revolutionary Guard should “let the country go.”
The people do not disrespect the flag of USA and Israel. They say all over Iran: We are not the enemy of the USA and Israel. Our enemy is the people of the Islamic Republic of Iran.#IranProtests #IranProtests2020 pic.twitter.com/usT41DaYtm
— Mohammad Mozafari (@mohmd_mozafari) January 12, 2020
Iran’s government responded to the protesters by sending Riot police to break up the protests. Police in riot gear lined the streets across Tehran trying to stop protesters by blocking their way and entrances at the University of Tehran. Police used tear gas and water cannons on the protesters trying to disperse them.
On Twitter, President Trump gave his support to the Iranian protesters in Farsi (the language of Iran). President Trump tweeted, “to the brave, long-suffering people of Iran, we are inspired by your courage.” Trump also told the Iranian people that since becoming president he himself and his administration “will continue to stand” with the people of Iran.
دولت ایران باید به گروههای حقوق بشر اجازه بدهد حقیقت کنونی اعتراضات در جریان مردم ایران را نظارت کرده و گزارش بدهند. نباید شاهد کشتار دوباره ی معترضان مسالمت آمیز و یا قطع اینترنت باشیم. جهان نظاره گر این اتفاقات است.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2020
In another Tweet, President Trump also asked the Iranian government not to hurt the protesters or use lethal force against them. President Trump stated that “thousands of Iranian people have been imprisoned and put to death” under the regime. He also continued that the “world is watching” especially the United States.
To the leaders of Iran – DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS. Thousands have already been killed or imprisoned by you, and the World is watching. More importantly, the USA is watching. Turn your internet back on and let reporters roam free! Stop the killing of your great Iranian people!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2020
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has also demanded a full investigation and wants full punishment for Iran’s actions. He has also asked compensation for the victim’s families.
President Zelenskyy stated on Facebook, “Iran has pleaded guilty to crashing the Ukrainian plane” but is insisting on “full admission of guilt.” President Zelenskyy continued that those “responsible face justice” and asked Iran to return the victim’s bodies.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau responded to the downing of Flight 752. Trudeau is also demanding a full investigation and justice for the victims.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded to the backlash and gave his condolences stating that Iran “deeply regrets this disastrous mistake.” President Rouhani also said that “investigations will continue” and that they will “prosecute” who was behind the tragedy.
Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei became the supreme leader of Iran, on June 4, 1989, and is the oldest head of state in the Middle East. Prior to becoming the supreme leader, he was president of Iran from 1981 to 1989. During the Iran–Iraq War in the 1980s, Khamenei developed a close relationship with the Revolutionary Guards. Khamenei succeeded Ruhollah Khomeini after Khomeini’s death, in 1989. It is estimated that Ayatollah Khamenei is worth $95 billion US dollars.
Iranian General Qassem Soleimani is believed to have been responsible for many conflicts and uprisings in the Middle East years. It is also believed that Soleimani was behind the US embassy attack in Iraqi and that he had targeted four other US embassies before his death. He is also responsible for the deaths of over 600 US citizens.