Iran Citizens Rise Up Against Regime, Demand Leadership Change: 'Death to the Liars'
Protesters flood the streets in response to Iranian downing of Ukrainian passenger plane
Citizens of Iran have risen up in their thousands against the Iranian regime, with protesters demanding a change in leadership following their government's admission to shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane this week.
Iran initially denied claims that it had shot the plane down, killing all 176 people on board, after Canada and the US made the accusation, only later admitting it after irrefutable evidence emerged.
Late this week, activists posted images online of what appeared to be the remnants of a rocket near the crash site, while a separate video was discovered that showed an Iranian anti-aircraft missile strike the plane before it crashed.
Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, released statements Saturday morning, admitting to shooting down the plane "accidentally," claiming "human error" was to blame while implying that Presdient Donald Trump and the US Government was responsible.
The people of Iran have responded furiously to their government's actions.
Thousand of Iranians flooded the streets of Tehran on Saturday night, with videos on social media from the capital showing protesters chanting "death to the liars" and calling for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to resign.
Britain's ambassador to Iran was arrested during the protests in Tehran, further deepening the international crisis.
Rob Macaire was detained on suspicion of organizing, provoking, and directing radical actions, with hostility towards the supreme leader growing rapidly since the confession earlier on Saturday.
Mr. Macaire was released after more than an hour in custody as the demonstrations went on into the night.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called Mr. Macaire's arrest a "flagrant violation of international norms."
"The Iranian government is at a crossroads moment," he said.
"It can continue its march towards pariah status with all the political and economic isolation that entails, or take steps to de-escalate tensions and engage in a diplomatic path forwards."
The admission by Iran over what caused Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 to crash confirmed Western intelligence that the plane was struck by a short-range missile not long after take-off from Tehran International Airport, killing all 176 passengers and crew.
Most of the victims were from Iran and Canada, with four from Britain, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his British counterpart Boris Johnson are among the world leaders joining President Trump to demand a full investigation.
According to the Iranian Fars news agency, demonstrators ripped up pictures of Iran's slain terror chief Major General Qassem Soleimani.
Terrorist Soleimani's assassination by the US prompted Iran to target two American bases in Iraq.
Those strikes came just hours before the Ukrainian plane was shot down on Wednesday, with Iranian forces having remained on high alert for possible retaliation from the US.
Khamenei, who was seen crying at the funeral of the commander earlier this week, has expressed "deep sympathy" to the victims of the plane crash.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted that the protests were a sign that the Iranian people "are fed up with the regime's lies, corruption, ineptitude and brutality."
President Trump also expressed his support of "the brave, long-suffering people of Iran" and called on the Iranian government to allow human rights groups to monitor the protests.
To the brave, long-suffering people of Iran: I've stood with you since the beginning of my Presidency, and my Administration will continue to stand with you. We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2020
The government of Iran must allow human rights groups to monitor and report facts from the ground on the ongoing protests by the Iranian people. There can not be another massacre of peaceful protesters, nor an internet shutdown. The world is watching.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 11, 2020
Iran had previously insisted it had nothing to do with the plane crash.
Mr. Trudeau has said "there are still questions that must be answered" about how and why the plane was shot down.
Speaking at a media conference, Trudeau demanded a "full and complete investigation" into the crash.
"Shooting down a civilian aircraft is horrific and Iran must take full responsibility," he said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy also spoke with his Iranian counterpart on Saturday, reiterating his demand that those behind the crash "must be held accountable" and that the victims be repatriated "immediately."
Meanwhile, the EU Aviation Safety Agency has urged European airlines to avoid Iranian airspace until further notice.
Tehran has said the Ukrainian plane was "misidentified as a cruise missile" by an air defence operator.
The supreme leader was reportedly informed on Friday and ordered the information be made public, despite senior officials having spent days denying that Iran was responsible for the accident.
Tehran went as far as to say that accusations by the US and Canada that Iran had downed the jet, citing intelligence, amounted to "psychological warfare against Iran."
As well as in Tehran, there have also been anti-regime protests over the plane crash in other Iranian cities.
Those include Shiraz, Isfahan, Babol, Abdan, Mashhad, and Hamedan.
Ayatollah Khamenei is not the only target for the demonstrators - some are also chanting against the military and the danger of potential war with the US.