Anti-government protests in Iran are intensifying after the Iranian government admitted to shooting down a Ukraine jetliner. Concerns about potential casualties are rising with some reports on the use of live ammunitions by the police at some protest sites.
According to The New York Times, massive anti-government protests took place Sunday across the capital Tehran including Azadi Square, University of Tehran, and Shahid Beheshti University. The protests also took place in other cities such as Kermanshah, Shiraz, Tabriz, and Isfahan. The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) announced that at least 17 states witnessed anti-government protests on Sunday.
The police dispersed protesters with tear gases and rubber bullets, but some police are reported to have made more violent forms of response, firing live armors at the protesters. The British daily Guardian said tear gases were fired at major subway stations in Tehran, with suffocated protesters screaming in pain.
Enraged by the government’s attempt to conceal Iran’s involvement in the crash of the Ukraine jetliner, protesters are demanding that Ali Khamenei, the Supreme leader of Iran, should step down, a highly unusual call by the Iranian public. In Iran where theocracy is practiced, anyone who criticizes the supreme leader can be subjected to a maximum two years in prison.
Pundits express the concern that the Iranian government might launch an indiscriminate suppression to curb the spread of protests. While the government is denying the allegations, roughly 1,500 were killed for two weeks after the dissident rallies broke out on November 15 last year.
Against this backdrop, Western powers are urging Iran to engage in a negotiation. In his Twitter message, U.S. President Donald Trump said that the negotiation “will be totally up to Iran, but no nuclear weapons and don’t kill your protesters.” The UK, France, and Germany have issued a joint statement calling for Iran to “return to full compliance with its commitments under the agreement,” adding, “We are ready to continue our engagement for de-escalation and stability in the region.”
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