By Emily Jones
JERUSALEM, Israel – Thousands of outraged Iranian protesters are back in the streets condemning Iranian authorities who say they accidentally shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane last week, killing all 176 people on board – most of whom were Iranian citizens.
Iranian leaders were forced to admit their errors on Saturday after facing mounting international pressure. Initially, they denied shooting down the plane and blamed the accusations on Western propaganda.
The Iranian government’s apologies for the tragedy have done little to deter civilians from taking to the streets and calling for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down immediately.
“Commander-in-chief (Khamenei) resign, resign,” videos posted on Twitter showed hundreds in front of Tehran’s Amir Kabir University.
“Death to the dictator,” some chanted. “Khamenei have shame. Leave the country.”
Video online shows other protesters ripping down posters of the late Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani.
“They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here,” videos posted on Twitter show another group of protesters chanting outside a Tehran university.
Other videos showed demonstrators marching to Tehran’s Azadi (Freedom) Square and protests in other cities. Many of the protesters are calling on those involved in shooting down the plane to be criminally prosecuted.
Iranian authorities are responding to the demonstrations by open firing on civilians and using tear gas.
Video obtained by The Associated Press shows protesters near Azadi Square saying a woman had been “shot in the leg” before trying to help her up from the floor.
Another video obtained by The Associated Press from the New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran showed police firing tear gas and shooting at a group of protesters in Tehran.
Pools of blood could also be seen on a sidewalk near Azadi Square.
The protesters know they are risking their lives. The Iranian government has a history of slaughtering demonstrators. Iranian officials killed approximately 1,500 demonstrators over the last few months and shut down the internet in response to anti-government protests.
President Donald Trump tweeted messages of support to the “brave, long-suffering people” of Iran.
“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!” Trump tweeted.
While anti-government protests rage on, Iranian students have shown their defiance against the Iranian government by refusing to trample on US and Israeli flags at Iran’s Shahid Beheshti University campus. The flags were painted on the ground so that those walking on campus would openly insult both countries by stepping on their flags.
Those who did step on the flags were condemned by students.
Student protesters at Tehran’s Beheshti University take pains to avoid trampling on US and Israeli flags painted on the entrance walkway.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy says Iran has vowed to quickly identify and return victims’ remains from the passenger plane it shot down.
Zelensky says he “will return all those dead to their families,” adding: “All the culprits will be punished.”
Meanwhile, Iranian authorities have reportedly warned the families of the Iranian victims of the plane strike not to speak to foreign media at risk of not receiving the bodies of their loved ones, according to Al-Arabiya.