George Floyd vigil in Iran leads to online backlash

Families of those killed in the Ukrainian plane crash express their suspicion.

June 2, 2020, 10:13 AM

A candlelight vigil in honor of George Floyd was held in Iran, igniting a chain of critical reactions on social media.

The ceremony was held in the Mellat Park of the holy city of Mashhad on Sunday with posters of Black Lives Matter and an illustration of Floyd, Fars News Agency reported.

Iranian officials condemned the killing of Floyd asking for the "suppressing [of] the suffering Americans" to be "urgently" stopped.

"Iran regrets the tragic murder of black Americans, denounces deadly racial profiling in the United States & urges authorities to do justice for every case," the ministry said in a tweet on Friday.

However, with photos of Mashhad's small candlelight ceremony quickly going viral, some people on social media negatively reacted to the action of commemorating those oppressed in the United States. They expressed suspicion about the real intention behind the vigil and pointed out that the same has not been done to honor those killed in recent tragic incidents inside Iran -- including victims of a nationwide series of protests and an airplane crash.

"Iranians lit up candles in honor of George Floyd. Such a beautiful move," wrote Armanabt, a twitter user whose brother was one of the victims of the Ukrainian airplane crash that was shot by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard on January 8. "But remember that my mother cried and said they went and lit up candles for George Floyd, but arrested people who lit up candles for those killed in the Ukrainian plane crash."

PHOTO: A memorial at the site where George Floyd died in Police custody in Minneapolis, May 31, 2020.
A memorial at the site where George Floyd died in Police custody in Minneapolis, May 31, 2020.
Emilie Richardson/ABC News

Armanabt referred to the arrests that happened after a gathering was held in Tehran to commemorate the victims of the crash in January. Iran said shooting down the plane was due to a "human error."

Mahmoud Sadeghi, a former member of the parliament in Iran, also condemned the killing of Floyd while addressing the problems at home.

"Crimes and murdering citizens are condemned, be it in Minneapolis and Minnesota, or in Karaj and Shahr-e Quds (towns in the outskirt of Tehran). Be it George Floyd, or Pouya Bakhtiyari," Sadeghi tweeted, honoring Bakhtiari, who was killed in a series of protests erupted across the country last November caused by an increase in fuel prices and economic hardship.

Some of the online critics referred to the tragic killing of Asiyeh Panahi, which occurred on May 19, when her humble shed -- built on a land designated for green area -- was illegally destroyed by the municipality officers of Kermanshah, a western city of the country.

"Didn't Asiyeh Panahi deserve a candlelight vigil," a Twitter user wrote.

In May, videos showing Panahi's desperate attempts to save her shed provoked massive reactions among social media users and led to officials' response.

Hassan Darvishian, head of the National Inspection Office of the country, admitted that municipality officers had "illegally" used pepper spray on Panahi before destroying her shed, which was also destroyed without proper legal order, as Iranian Students' News Agency reported on Monday.

Despite domestic objections to showing low tolerance towards civil protests by the system, some Iranians on Sunday chose to reflect on traces of racism among themselves. They invited others to address the issues of Afghans living in Iran who make up the biggest refugee population in the country.

"We like to post the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter. But we can't claim being anti-racism as long as Iranians and Afghans are different to us," a Twitter user named Happy wrote on her account.

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