Protests burst out in Iran last Saturday after the regime admitted to accidentally shooting down a passenger plane.
Thousands of people—mostly students—joined demonstrations in capital city Tehran. They confronted riot police on motorbikes, denouncing cops and politicians as “dishonourable”.
Protests came after the government admitted accidentally shooting down an Ukranian passenger plane killing 176 people, most of them Iranian.
The regime at first denied responsibility, but later admitted the plane was hit by an Iranian anti-aircraft missile.
Earlier that evening Iran had launched missile strikes on US air bases in Iraq in retaliation for the assassination of top general Qassem Soleimani.
A statement from the Iranian military said it struck the aircraft, mistaking it for a US missile or warplane.
The announcement didn’t just anger protesters. Two state TV hosts resigned in protest over false reporting over the incident.
And some Iranian newspapers ran front-page headlines that read, “Ashamed” and “Unbelievable”.
US president Donald Trump also claimed to support the protests in Iran.
But there is rightly widespread hatred and mistrust of the US among Iranian people. Claims by Trump to support the protests risks discrediting them or pushing people to side with the regime.
Economic sanctions imposed on Iran by Donald Trump have caused poverty and hardship—including a shortage of life-saving medicines—for ordinary people.
Trump’s “Muslim travel ban” in 2016 was also designed to stop ordinary Iranians from entering the US.
So it’s not surprising that hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to mourn Soleimani last week, in a show of bitter anger at the US.
Yet Iranian people have also shown they’re capable of resisting their own rulers independently of the West.
Late last year hundreds of thousands of people protested against a drastic fuel price increase designed to make the poor pay for Iran’s financial crisis. They were met with brutal repression that killed hundreds.
In early 2018 a mass protest movement against poverty, corruption and unemployment swept Iran.
And there have also been sustained strike waves, particularly by oil tanker drivers and teachers.
The latest protests are smaller than both recent movements and the turnout for Solemani’s funeral. But they show it is still possible for Iranians to challenge their own rulers without necessarily siding with the US.
A statement from students at Tehran’s Amir Kabir University—at the centre of the protests—said, “The US’s presence in the Middle East has meant nothing but the proliferation of chaos.
“But we are well aware that US adventures in the region should not become an excuse to justify domestic repression.
“The only way out of the current crisis is to return to the people’s politics. A politics that will not justify arrogance for fear of tyranny and in the name of resistance against imperialism will not legitimise tyranny.”