GP Insights

GP Insights # 222, 19 January 2020

Tehran: Protests follow the Airplane shooting
Lakshmi V Menon

In the news
On 8 January 2020, a Ukrainian passenger jet heading for Kyiv, crashed shortly after it took off from Tehran, killing all 176 passengers on board. On 11 January protests erupted in Tehran when Iran's regime backtracked from its previous statement of "technical failure" and admitted to shooting down the aircraft due to "human error" while also blaming "US adventurism" for the mishap. 

Anti-government protesters poured into the streets chanting "Death to the Dictator". Persistent unrest led to police reportedly firing live ammunition injuring several in Tehran, on 12 January.

Issues at large
On 3 January 2020, Iranians gathered in millions to grieve the US assassination of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani and in a display of national strength against the US. 
However, sentiments swung swiftly when Tehran attempted to wash its hands off and shift the blame, onto the US, for the Ukrainian plane crash. Distrust and rage towards the regime manifested in popular figures calling themselves "not citizens" but "captives"; in journalists resigning with public apologies for years of telling lies and misleading media. 

Earlier, in November 2019, Iran witnessed demonstrations, triggered by peaking gas-prices amid a crippling domestic economy owing to biting US sanctions. This led to a nation-wide internet shutdown followed by the killing of over 300 demonstrators (as per Amnesty International) by Iran's security forces (Tehran denies this).

In perspective
Post the killing of Qasem Soleimani, newfound national unity granted Iran's regime a rare moment of reprieve after the November 2019 protests, largest since the 1979 Iranian revolution. With stringent US sanctions, traditionally pro-regime areas are also budding with lower-income Iranian protestors, supporting the anti-government demonstrations otherwise populated by students, intellectuals and middle classes. Iranian military's "human error" has proven costly, raising criticism from still less expected regions.

Amidst videos showing two Iranian missiles attacking the Ukrainian aircraft, tributes to the crash victims by Iranian newspapers and the 15 January announcement of first arrests regarding the accidental-shooting down of the aircraft are striving in vain to offset the threat to the regime. Anger is growing. 

Iran's actions and endeavours will be scrutinized domestically and globally. As Donald Trump warned, "The world is watching" Iran.

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