Protesters in Iran refused to trample on U.S. and Israeli flags, saying 'our enemy is right here.'
FPI / January 12, 2020
President Donald Trump has warned the Iranian regime against violently cracking down on demonstrators who for the past two days have been protesting Iran’s accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger plane.
As anti-government protests again hit the streets in Iran’s major cities and the nation's only female Olympic medalist defected, Trump on Sunday delivered a blunt warning.
The president tweeted in English and Farsi: “To the leaders of Iran - DO NOT KILL YOUR PROTESTERS,” Mr. Trump said in a Sunday morning Twitter post. “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!”
President Trump's tweet has already earned over 200,000 likes, making it the "most liked Persian tweet" in the social media giant's history, according to Saeed Ghasseminejad, senior adviser and financial economist at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Iran’s leadership initially had denied shooting down the Ukrainian Boeing 737-800, but admitted responsibility after intelligence agencies presented overwhelming evidence that Iran had downed the plane.
One video on social media also showed a crowd of several hundred at an Iranian university refusing to trample on large U.S. and Israeli flags that had been laid down in the path of the march. Those that did walk on the flags were chastised by other protesters, the Haaretz daily newspaper reported.
“They are lying that our enemy is America, our enemy is right here,” a group of Iranian protesters shouted on Sunday during a demonstration in Teheran, according to Reuters.
Demonstrators also reportedly chanted “Death to the dictator,” referring to Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Fox News reported that a vigil at Teheran University for 16 Iranian students killed in the crash turned into a massive demonstration with chants of “death to the dictator” and “death to liars.” Demonstrators demanded Khamenei step down and those responsible for the tragedy be fired and put on trial, a criticism that is punishable by two years in prison.
Bahareh Arvin, a reformist member of Teheran city council, took to social media to say she was resigning in protest at what she said were the government's lies and corruption, saying that "with the current mechanism, there is no hope of reform."
At Isfahan University of Technology in the central Iranian city of Isfahan, protesters declared that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) "commits crimes" and Khamenei "supports" them.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that, at Vali-e Asr Square in Teheran, demonstrators on Sunday unveiled a large black banner with the names of those who died when the Ukrainian plane was shot down, many of whom were Iranian or Iranian-Canadian citizens.
“But by mid-morning, after riot police and plainclothes security officers were deployed at Vali-e Asr Square and elsewhere in Teheran, the banner had been removed,” the report said.
When Iranians took to the streets late last year to protest an increase in gas prices, Iran’s regime responded by brutally cracking down on the demonstrations and shutting down the Internet to prevent news of the crackdown from getting out. Some human rights groups say thousands of protesters were killed.
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the people of Iran “want the same things that most people around the world want. They want prosperity. They want the ability to live their lives, to raise their children. And we do support those same aspirations for people wherever they are. I just think you see a very corrupt regime that the Iranian people are finally standing up and trying to hold them accountable.”
Meanwhile, Iran's only female Olympic medalist said on social media that she has permanently left the country, decrying what she called the "injustice" and "hypocrisy" of the Iranian political system.
"Should I start with hello, goodbye, or condolences?" Kimia Alizadeh wrote on Instagram on Jan. 11.
The 21-year-old Alizadeh, who won a bronze medal in taekwondo at the 2016 Rio Olympics, did not say where she was writing from, but in the past has said she wants to settle in the Netherlands, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.
In her statement, she said she wanted nothing more than "taekwondo, security, and a happy, healthy life."
But she said she no longer wanted to "sit at the table of hypocrisy, lies, injustice, and flattery."
"I am one of the millions of oppressed women in Iran with whom they have been playing for years," she wrote.
"I wore whatever they told me to wear," she said, referring to the Islamic veil, compulsory for all women in public in deeply conservative Iran.
"I repeated everything they told me to say," she wrote, adding that "none of us matter to them."
News of Alizadeh’s disappearance on Jan. 9 had raised concerns in her homeland, with the semiofficial ISNA news agency reporting: "Shock for Iran's taekwondo. Kimia Alizadeh has emigrated to the Netherlands."
ISNA wrote that it was thought Alizadeh was looking to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but not as a member of the Iranian team.
Free Press International