Photo Credit: Mahmood Hosseini / Tasnim News Agency
Downed Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 near Tehran, Jan 8 2020

The United States issued a warning to Iran on Saturday night saying “the world is watching,” as Iranian security forces came out to violently suppress the outraged protests that began when it became known it had taken Iran three days to admit its culpability in the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Aerospace Force near Tehran.

All 176 people aboard were killed, including the crew of nine; 147 of the passengers held Iranian citizenship, many of whom were dual citizens. At least 82 were Iranian nationals, and 63 were Canadian nationals.

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“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,” President Donald Trump wrote in a tweet on Saturday evening. “There cannot be another massacre of peaceful protesters, no an internet shutdown. The world is watching.”

Trump also wrote a tweet in Persian to the “brave, long-suffering people of Iran” and saying his administration will continue to stand with them. “We are following your protests closely, and are inspired by your courage,” he wrote.

Those protests were growing by the hour on Saturday night. Dozens of protesters were arrested and dozens more were injured in the violent suppression being carried out by Iranian security forces.

Demonstrators in Tehran were seen tearing down posters and images of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the late Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani on Saturday night.

Hundreds of other demonstrators gathered in front of Sharif University, where students charged, “Disgraceful Basiji, you are the cause of people’s deaths.”

Students also gathered at Amir Kabir University – where Britain’s Ambassador to Iran, Rob Macaire was arrested earlier in the evening – and Tehran’s Polytechnic University to shout “Death to the Islamic Republic.” The Special Pasdaran Unit of the regime launched an attack on students at Amir Kabir University in Tehran, where thousands had gathered to protest against the government.

UK Ambassador to Iran Arrested in Tehran, Later Released
Macaire was released several hours later, but told he was expected to show up for questioning by government personnel on Sunday.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo echoed the president’s remarks, writing in a tweet, “The voice of the Iranian people is clear. They are fed up with the regime’s lies, corruption, ineptitude and brutality of the IRGC under Khamenei’s kleptocracy. We stand with the Iranian people who deserve a better future.”

Protesters also gathered in the city of Isfahan; in Sabzevar in eastern Iran they used their cars to block roads in a demonstration against the regime.

Security forces attempting to suppress the demonstrations used tear gas and other riot control methods in their efforts to control the crowds.

Family members of the doomed passengers of the downed Ukraine Flight 752 who have Iranian citizenship fare being threatened by Iran to be silent about the relatives’ deaths if they ever want to be able to lay their loved ones to rest.

Those who hold Iranian citizenship have reportedly received warnings from the Iranian security forces not to talk to Persian-language media outside of Iran if they want the bodies of their loved ones to be returned to them, according to a report from Iran International.

Voice of America’s Persian news service reported Saturday night that protests have spread to other areas of Iran, including the country’s third-largest city of Isfahan. Protests were also reported by Reuters and the BBC.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Saturday he wants “a full and open investigation, bringing those responsible to justice, the return of the bodies of the dead, the payment of compensation, official apologies through diplomatic channels.”

Zelenskiy later added that Iran has provided enough “photos, videos and other materials” from the crash “to see that the investigation will be carried out objectively and promptly.” Ukraine’s team has been given “access to the recordings of conversations between the dispatchers of the flight control center at the airport in Tehran and our pilots,” according to Ukrainian Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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