Iran protesters fume over downed airplane
Widespread anger over the Iranian government for shooting down a passenger plane and then misleading the public about it simmered for a third day Monday, with police and protesters facing off in at least two cities and increasing demands from lawmakers for accountability.
After days of denials, Iran acknowledged Saturday that it had mistakenly shot down the Ukrainian airliner plane, killing 176 people.
A government spokesman, Ali Rabeei, said Monday that Iranian officials had not lied to the public when it insisted the plane crashed because of mechanical problems, but was providing the limited information it had. He said that President
Hassan Rouhani had learned that missiles were fired at the plane only Friday, two days after it crashed near the Tehran airport.
Demands for government resignations spread Monday from hard-liners, who support Iran’s clerical government and called for officials to step down over the weekend, to members of the more moderate reformist parties, Rouhani’s base.
Bahram Parsaie, a prominent lawmaker from Shiraz, said that it was not enough for Rouhani and his government to issue statements and that they needed to resign. He warned that if the president and his Cabinet were not transparent with the public, Parliament would take legal action against them.
Ali Shakouri Rad, the head of a reformist political party, said the growing rift between the public and the clerical government had become insurmountable. “Covering up the mistake of downing the passenger jet with missiles was throwing acid at the image of the Islamic Republic,” he said on Twitter.
The backlash over how the plane crash was handled also spread to the official news media Monday, with several prominent state television and radio hosts quitting their jobs, saying they could no longer lie for the government.
Gelare Jabbari, a popular host of state TV’s Channel Two programs, changed her profile picture on Instagram to black and posted a public apology.
“It was very hard for me to believe the murdering of my countrymen,” she wrote. “Forgive me for believing it too late. I apologize for lying to you on TV for 13 years.”
Iranian protesters hold flowers as riot police fire tear gas in front of Tehran’s Amir Kabir University on Saturday after Iran admitted to mistakenly shooting down a passenger plane.