Iranian protesters took to the streets in the third day of demonstrations against the government after it acknowledged mistakenly shooting down a Ukrainian passenger jet, killing all 176 aboard.
Video posted online showed students outside universities in Tehran and Isfahan Monday chanting at the country’s rulers, “Clerics get lost!”
Earlier videos from the night before appear to show security forces firing live ammunition and tear gas at the protesters in Tehran. Authorities denied they opened fire but the semi-official Fars news agency reported police had “shot tear gas in some areas” in an attempt to disperse the demonstrators.
The videos showed protesters coughing and sputtering as they tried to escape the tear gas fumes. VOA could not independently verify the authenticity of the videos.
Tehran’s police chief, Gen. Hossein Rahimi, insisted authorities treated protesters with “patience and tolerance.”
“Police did not shoot in the gatherings since broad-mindedness and restraint has been the agenda of the police forces of the capital,” Iranian media quoted him as saying.
The protests erupted after Iran on Saturday acknowledged that “human error” led a missile operator to fire on the Boeing 737 jet last Wednesday. The accident occurred hours after Iran fired 16 ballistic missiles at Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces in retaliation for U.S. President Donald Trump ordering the Jan. 3 drone strike at the Baghdad airport that killed Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force.
As protests started against Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,Trump voiced support for the demonstrators and warned Iranian officials, “Don’t kill your protesters.”
After Iran fired the missiles at the Iraqi bases, Trump retreated from threats of further armed conflict with Tehran. He instead imposed more economic sanctions against Iran in an effort to force it to renegotiate terms of the 2015 international treaty aimed at restraining its nuclear program, the deal that Trump withdrew the U.S. from.
Watch related video report by Henry Ridgwell:
U.S. national security adviser Robert O’Brien told CBS’ Face the Nation show on Sunday that Iran is “being choked off” economically and that U.S. officials see an opportunity to further intensify pressure on the country’s leaders and leave them with no choice but to negotiate. But late Sunday, Trump seemed indifferent to the possibility of more negotiations.
“Actually, I couldn’t care less if they negotiate,” Trump said on Twitter. “Will be totally up to them but, no nuclear weapons and ‘don’t kill your protesters.'”
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
On Sunday, in an emotional speech before parliament, the head of the Revolutionary Guard apologized for the missile attack on the jetliner and insisted it was a tragic mistake.
“I swear to almighty God that I wished I was on that plane and had crashed with them and burned, but had not witnessed this tragic incident,” said Gen. Hossein Salami. “I have never been this embarrassed in my entire life. Never.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, on Twitter, expressed “profound regrets” and apologized for the shoot-down of the Ukraine International Airlines jet. But he contended that ‘Human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to disaster.”
O’Brien rejected Zarif’s claim in a Fox News Sunday interview, saying Iran first covered up its actions then claimed the civilian aircraft veered toward a military base. He said Iran needs to investigate the accident, apologize for it, pay compensation to the victims’ families and “make sure it never happens again.”
A team of Canadian officials is due to travel Monday to Iran to work with the families of victims, including identifying those killed and repatriating their remains. They will also assist in the investigation.
Off the 176 dead, at least 57 were Canadians.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participated in a memorial service Sunday in Edmonton where he expressed sorrow for those who died and said, “This tragedy should never have occurred.”
“We will continue to work with our partners to ensure that a full, transparent investigation is conducted,” Trudeau said. “I want to assure all families and all Canadians we will not rest until there are answers. We will not rest until there is justice and accountability.”