Iranian students have staged noisy rallies at four Tehran universities in a fourth day of protests against Iran’s Islamist rulers after they admitted to mistakenly shooting down a passenger jet full of Iranians.
Video clips obtained by VOA appeared to show dozens of students chanting anti-government slogans in Tuesday protests at Tehran University, Amirkabir University of Technology, Shahid Beheshti University and Tehran University of Art. VOA could not independently verify the authenticity of the clips.
There were no immediate reports of Iranian police action against any of the student demonstrations, which appeared to be peaceful.
Iranians in Tehran and other cities have been holding daily anti-government protests since officials admitted on Saturday that their forces shot down a Ukraine International Airlines Boeing 737 shortly after it took off from Tehran on a flight to Kyiv on January 8. For three days, Iranian leaders insisted that mechanical problems likely caused the crash that killed all 176 people on board, until acknowledging that Iranian military personnel downed the plane after misidentifying it as an enemy threat.
The dead included 82 Iranians and 57 Canadians, many of them Iranian students with dual citizenship who were flying to Kyiv en route to Canada to resume university studies after the winter break.
The pre-dawn crash happened hours after Iran fired missiles at U.S. forces in Iraq and was bracing for a U.S. counterstrike that never came. Iran’s missile attacks, which caused no casualties, were in retaliation for what the U.S. called a self-defensive strike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on Jan. 3.
Western news agencies with journalists in Tehran said more than 200 anti-government protesters took part in Tuesday’s rally at Tehran University.
In one clip, students gathered in a large circle near the campus’ science faculty, chanting: “Resign, resign, incompetent officials,” and, “We cry out against so much injustice.”
In another clip, students assembled near the university’s medical school chanted, “Our state television is our disgrace.”
Iranian state TV network IRIB had broadcasted the government’s initial denials that Iran was responsible for the plane crash. Several presenters for the network have since resigned, in a reflection of public anger toward the erroneous denials.
Student supporters of the government also made their presence felt at Tehran University, holding a joint memorial for the victims of the plane crash and for Soleimani at the campus mosque. Images provided by Western news agencies showed some of the pro-government activists also burning American and British flags outside the mosque and chanting slogans vowing never to give in to Iran’s “enemies.”
A video that appeared to be from Tehran’s Shahid Beheshti University showed students denouncing government officials who said they were mourning the plane crash while insisting it was not their fault. “If you are grieving, why have you waited for three days?” the students asked.
At Tehran University of Art, students appeared to be chanting, “Death to the liar”, and, “Our hands are bare, so put away your truncheons.”
Iranian judiciary spokesman Gholhossein Esmaili said authorities had detained 30 protesters since the anti-government demonstrations began late Saturday. Widely-circulated online video of Sunday’s protests in Tehran appeared to show people suffering the effects of tear gas fired by police.
Esmaili said authorities were treating the protesters with leniency.
Other video apparently filmed after nightfall Tuesday showed students at Amirkabir University denouncing Iranian security forces as “shameless”.
Earlier Tuesday, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani vowed to punish those responsible for the “unforgivable” downing of the Ukrainian plane. In a televised speech, he also called for a special court to be set up to handle prosecutions.
Esmaili, the judiciary spokesman, said some of those suspected of having a role in the plane shoot-down had been arrested, but did not say how many or identify them.
This article originated in VOA’s Persian Service. VOA’s Extremism Watch Desk contributed.