Demonstrators chant during a vigil for the victims of the Ukraine International Airlines flight downed by Iran’s military, Tehran, January 11, 2020 (Ali Mohammadi/Bloomberg/Getty)
UPDATE, 1600 GMT:
The Guardian posts accounts from witnesses of security forces shooting protesters on Sunday night in Azadi Square in Tehran.
“Ronak” says that Azadi, the iconic spot for rallies in Iran’s capital, was “beating like a heart”. Then police fired tear gas. As the demonstrators continued chanting, the security forces Fired “compact and hard black bullets”, which are designed as non-lethal ammunition. “[They fired] constantly, without stop.”
People were on the ground. One of the teargas canisters was fired near us. My friend was shot by paintball bullets in his head. For a few seconds I thought he had lost his eye, but the bullet hit his eyebrows. Blood was dripping from his eyebrows. His face was wet and he was constantly coughing.
The crowd dispersed after the bullets were fired at their heads.
A woman told US-based activist Masih Alinejad:
“It was a very bad situation. They were firing teargas repeatedly. We couldn’t see anywhere and we were screaming. We were getting blinded. Forces were firing tear gas back to back. A young girl beside me was shot in the leg. It was terrible, terrible.
“I saw seven people shot,” declared a male voice in a video. “There is blood everywhere.”
Other protests were reported in cities such as Kermanshah, Ahvaz, Rasht, Yazd, Semnan, and Mashhad.
BBC Persian is showing footage of a rally today at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran with chants of “They killed our elite & appointed mullahs in their place”:
تجمع در دانشگاه صنعتی شریف
دانشجویان دانشگاه صنعتی شریف امروز دوشنبه ۲۳ دی، در پی ساقط شدن #هواپیمای_اوکراینی با موشک سپاه و در ادامه اعتراضات در شهرهای مختلف ایران، تجمع کردند. در این ویدیو آنها شعار میدهند "نخبههانون رو کشتن، آخوند به جاش گذاشتن".
— BBC NEWS فارسی (@bbcpersian) January 13, 2020
ORIGINAL ENTRY: Protests spread across Iran on Sunday over the regime’s downing of a Ukraine passenger jet, killing 176 passengers and crew, and coverup of the incident for three days.
Demonstrations began on Saturday outside Amir Kabir University in Tehran, as a vigil was held for the victims of the crash, hours after the regime finally acknowledged that missiles were fired. Protesters chanted, “Down with the liars” and “Resignation is not enough. Prosecution is necessary.”
By Sunday, there were rallies across the capital despite the massing of riot police at key points such as the gates of Tehran University. Marches were also reported in other cities such as Shiraz and Isfahan.
On Sunday night, videos were circulating that claimed to show the police beating demonstrators. There were unconfirmed assertions of killings.
“They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here,” chanted protesters in Isfahan.
In Tehran, rallies continued outside universities and one group marched to Azadi Square, the symbolic center of protest through the 1979 Islamic Revolution through the demonstrations against the disputed 2009 Presidential election to the regime’s ceremonies today.
The protesters called on polices officers to join them and chanted slogans such as “Down with the Dictator”, a reference to the Supreme Leader.
The Iranian Labor News Agency said up to 3,000 people were in the square before riot police dispersed them.
— Golnaz Esfandiari (@GEsfandiari) January 12, 2020
In contrast to their standard reporting of anti-regime rallies — including mass protests in November over the Government’s sharp escalation of petrol prices — some official and semi-official outlets carried neutral accounts of the protests.
Others criticized officials. Etemad wrote in a banner headline, “Apologise and Resign”.
Surreal. Standing in the middle of the Uni. of #Toronto Convocation Hall as people sob for the victims of #IranPlaneCrash & I get this HORRIFIC vid from a friend in #Tehran, she is standing over a bridge watching the protest as they are shot at by what she thinks R rubber bullets pic.twitter.com/aw6fuzOVS4
— Bahman Kalbasi (@BahmanKalbasi) January 12, 2020
Officials Apologize — But Supreme Leader Blames US
Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crashed on Wednesday morning, soon after takeoff from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport. The crash occurred hours after Iran fired missiles at two Iraq bases with American personnel, retaliating for the US assassination of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani on January 3.
Iranian officials quickly said the cause was engine failure. As late as Friday, they rejected reports of a missile attack as Western “lies” that were part of “psychological warfare”.
But on Saturday morning, under pressure to allow full international investigation of the crash, the Iranian military and President Hassan Rouhani acknowledged that the Boeing 737 jet had been shot down.
Speaking to Iran’s Parliament on Sunday, Revolutionary Guards commander-in-chief Maj. Gen. Hossein Salami said,
“We did made a mistake. Some of our compatriots were martyred because of our mistake but it was unintentional.”
In my all lifetime I haven’t been as sorry as much as now. Never.
I wish I had been on board and burned with them May God forgive us and then after than Iranian people and the family of the victims forgive us.
Following their admission on Saturday, regime officials — including Rouhani, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani, and judiciary head Ebrahim Raisi — said investigations would be opened into the cause of the downing.
But the Supreme Leader, meeting the Emir of Qatar, said nothing about the event. Instead, he derided Washington and its allies for their “corruptive presence” in the region.
The reason for the current turbulent situation in our region is the corruptive presence of the U.S. and its cohorts. The only way to confront this is to depend on cooperation within the region.
— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) January 12, 2020
Before the growing concern over the downing of the Ukraine jet, the regime had capitalized on Soleimani’s assassination through the pursuit of expulsion of US troops from Iraq. The Iraqi Parliament passed a bill last Sunday demanding the departure.
The regime also suspended its commitments under the 2015 nuclear deal, seeking leverage on European countries, Russia, and China for the bypass of US sanctions.