Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency, in a rare report on anti-government unrest, said protesters in Tehran on Saturday chanted slogans against the nation’s top authorities, after the powerful Revolutionary Guards admitted shooting down a passenger plane.
The report said the demonstrators on the street also ripped up pictures of Qassem Soleimani, the prominent commander of the Guard’s Quds Force who was killed in a U.S. drone strike.
Iranian troops out to crush growing protests… pic.twitter.com/r8K1bON0yN
— Bessma Momani (@b_momani) January 11, 2020
Chants in Tehran this evening: “IRGC have shame, let go of the country” pic.twitter.com/4kpS4b8ajC
— Bahman Kalbasi (@BahmanKalbasi) January 11, 2020
The agency, widely seen as close to the Guards, carried pictures of the gathering and a torn banner of Soleimani. It said the protesters numbered about 700 to 1,000 people.
Iran's statement on Saturday that a Ukrainian passenger plane was downed by a missile fired unintentionally followed growing pressure from abroad but also at home, and for some Iranians, the authorities' expressions of condolence were not enough.
For days, Iran had denied Western accusations it was responsible for Wednesday's crash soon after take-off from Tehran, in which all 176 people aboard were killed. Authorities said on Saturday that air defences had been fired in error while on high alert following Iranian missile strikes on U.S. targets in Iraq.
— Bahare Hedayat (@HedayatBahare) January 11, 2020
Expressions of condolence over the incident from Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rohani failed to calm angry Iranians, who used social media to express their outrage against the establishment for concealing the truth.
Rescue workers search the scene where a Ukrainian plane was downed in Shahedshahr, southwest of the capital Tehran, Iran, January 8, 2020. Ebrahim Noroozi/AP
"It is a national tragedy. The way it was handled and it was announced by the authorities was even more tragic," said Ali Ansari, a moderate cleric, according to Iran's semi-official ILNA news agency.