DUBAI (Reuters) – Iranians buried their dead in a plane shot down by the army when authorities on Wednesday identified more than 176 victims of the accident last week, which caused days of anger against the rulers of Iran, followed of a police repression.
Emotions have skyrocketed while the victims of the January 8 accident cry. The national flag was torn from the coffin of a victim when relatives picked up the body and the mother shouted “Take it off!”, He showed an online video post.
Protesters took to the streets of Iranian cities for four days after the armed forces finally recognized on Saturday, after days of denials, that they had shot down the plane. In several places, protesters encountered a fierce police response.
Iranians on social networks called for more protests on Wednesday, but there were no signs of the type of demonstrations from previous days. Instead, the videos showed mass riot police outside universities, the focal point for demonstrations.
In previous protests, the images showed police beating protesters, shooting sounds, tear gas and blood on the ground.
The total scale of disturbances and repression is difficult to determine due to restrictions in independent reports.
Police refused to open fire and said officers were told to act in moderation. Only two months ago, an offensive against protests caused by rising fuel prices killed hundreds of people.
“The government is besieged everywhere at this time and will not allow any protest to become a national movement,” said Ali Vaez, director of the Iran Project at the International Crisis Group.
Iran is fighting on several fronts. A new international crisis has broken out over its nuclear program, the economy is tattered under US sanctions and a long-standing confrontation with the United States briefly turned into an open conflict.
The plane was shot down by air defenses when the armed forces were on high alert for US reprisals, hours after Iran launched missiles against US targets in Iraq in retaliation for an attack with US drones that killed a senior Iranian commander the January 3.
Crash investigators from Canada have visited the crash site and will examine the remains later on Wednesday, Transportation Minister Marc Garneau said.
Ukraine is trying to establish whether Iran will deliver the black boxes containing flight data from the plane, a senior Ukrainian prosecutor quoted by Interfax Ukraine reported Wednesday.
Universities across Canada maintained a moment of silence on Wednesday for victims, many of whom were academics, researchers and students linked to 19 Canadian universities.
The majority of those traveling on Ukraine International Airlines flight 752, bound for Kiev, were Iranians or dual citizens, many of them students returning to their studies abroad or families returning to their homes after seeing relatives in Iran.
The head of the coroner’s office in Tehran said 123 of the 176 victims had been identified, the ILNA news agency reported.
Several victims were buried in the extensive Behesht-e Zahra cemetery south of Tehran, while others would be transferred abroad, Iranian media said.
On Thursday, Canada, Ukraine, Britain and other nations that had citizens on the downed plane met in London to discuss legal actions against Iran, Ukraine and Canada.
The military and senior officials apologized for the “unforgivable mistake” in shooting down the plane and said it would prosecute the culprits. The judiciary said they had arrested people accused of having a role in the disaster.
The government has also tried to galvanize loyalists at home. A state-sponsored agency convened demonstrations on Friday to show support for the leadership and to commemorate the “martyrs” of the plane’s disaster, Iranian media reported.
Iran has also been defending itself from international pressure on its nuclear ambitions. On Wednesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani rejected the idea of a new agreement to resolve the nuclear dispute, as proposed by the President of the United States, Donald Trump, and the Prime Minister of Great Britain described it as an “agreement of Trump. ”
Rouhani said Trump, who gave up an existing nuclear pact in 2018, always broke his promises.
Tehran has repeatedly said it will not hold talks while it is under US sanctions, reimposed as part of Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran aimed at pushing Tehran to a new agreement that would put stricter limits on its nuclear work, would curb its missile program and end its role in regional conflicts.
The commander killed in the drone attack on January 3, Qassem Soleimani, was responsible for building Iran’s proxy militias abroad that created an arch of influence throughout the Middle East.
Reports by Babak Dehghanpisheh and Parisa Hafezi and the London office, Written by Edmund Blair, Edited by Peter Graff and Timothy Heritage