Iranians anguished after military admits shooting down Ukrainian jet
"We cannot bear it any longer," a journalist said on social media.
Iranians are taking to social media to express their grief, shock and anger after authorities admitted that the Iranian military had "unintentionally" shot down the Ukrainian passenger plane that crashed near Tehran Wednesday morning, killing all 176 passengers and crew members on board.
The official statement released by Iranian authorities said that "human error" led to the catastrophic crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752.
"Call it 'human mistake' or meanness, or disgrace, whatever you name it. But I wish you would finish all of us. ... We cannot bear it any longer," Farnaz Miri, a journalist, posted to Twitter. "We are a bunch of walking-dead people with the life that you made for us.”
According to the Fars News Agency, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had asked members of the Supreme National Security Council on Friday to "explicitly and honestly" inform the people of what happened.
Yet the honest accounting hasn't curbed people's shock and outrage, both for the killing of innocent people and for the decision to hide the fact for three days after the crash.
"Did it take you three to four days until you realized you fired missiles?” photographer Arash Ashournia asked on Twitter.
The crash of Flight 752 occurred about three hours after Iran fired more than a dozen missiles at U.S. military bases in Iraq, in retaliation for the American drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, a top general of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The government's statement blamed "US terrorist forces' military flights around the country" for "increased ... sensitivity in air defense complexes," which led to Iran's defense forces being "on the highest level of preparedness to respond to possible threats."
Under those "critical conditions," Flight 752 was mistaken for a "hostile flight" after it turned toward a "sensitive military center," at which point the plane was "unintentionally hit" with an anti-aircraft missile, the statement said.
Last week, after Soleimani was targeted by the U.S., Iranian state media reported a sense of unity among the Iranian people as millions mourned Soleimani across the country.
Now, some feel that unity is at risk.
"Shame on you for not being able to distinguish a fighter jet from a passenger plane ... Maybe you are right and these people were your enemy," one Twitter user wrote. "How can you justify this disaster?"
The sense of questioning has even reached the parliament.
"What have these people done wrong that we are their authorities?" parliament member Mohammad Reza Tabesh asked Saturday morning. "They have left their resources and the decision-making of the country in our hands to bring them honor, prosperity and peace."
Tabesh said that keeping the truth secret was even “more damaging” to the country than the missiles and bombs.
Many Iranians are blaming the government for hiding the facts, with some pushing for top military commanders to resign.
“Yes, I believe resignation might be healing. Thousands of resignations. From top to bottom,” wrote Maryam Abdi.
The Islamic Association of Tehran’s Amirkabir University of Technology invited the public to hold a vigil on Saturday at 5 p.m.local time in downtown Tehran.
"It is our right to hold a funeral and vigil. There should be somewhere to shout all this anger," wrote Soheila Esmaeili. "Now we know that none of us will turn back to what we used to be.”
The vigil soon turned into a protest. By 5:30 p.m., there were hundreds of people, mostly students, at the vigil. "Down with this deceptive government," “IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] does the crime, the leader supports," and "We haven’t given blood to compromise, or to obey the murderer leader," were phrases the protestors shouted throughout and they demanded the release of political students.
As students began to push their way through the university's doors, anti-riot police started pushing students back. There were reports of tear gas being used on the protestors and warning shots fired.