Protests in Iran after government admits it accidentally shot down Ukrainian airliner

By: Zachary Frye

Updated on

Reading Time: 2 minutes



On January 8, a Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) flight carrying 176 passengers crashed shortly after takeoff in Tehran, killing everyone on board.

Initially, Iran claimed the plane went down due to technical failure. Several days later, however, evidence emerged of foul play. 

Western powers, including the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, went public with allegations that the crash was not as a result of malfunction. A rocket had apparently been launched from the ground, taking down the aircraft during flight.

Now, Iran admits that its military shot down the passenger plane, albeit accidentally.

In a tweet, Iran’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote that internal investigations found ‘human error at the time of crisis caused by US adventurism’ led to the disaster. He gave his condolences to the families and nations involved. 

The rocket was launched shortly after Iranian missiles targeted American military installations in response to the United States’ assassination of Iranian Commander Qasem Soleimani.

Following the crash, the Iranian government was adamant that talk of a missile strike was Western propaganda. At the time, senior officials were reassuring the country that decisive action was taking place to avenge the killing of Soleimani.

Dissatisfaction of the people

After Tehran has admitted the plane was shot down unintentionally, however, some Iranians are angry. A total of 82 Iranian citizens were killed on the flight. By contrast, no Americans have reportedly been killed after Iranian retaliatory strikes on US bases in Iraq. 

The seeming lack of accountability is hurting the government’s domestic image at a time of crisis. “Our lives have no value,” said Yalda, a 45-year-old graphic artist in Tehran in a phone interview, asking not to be identified fully for fear of arrest. “They shot down the plane and not only do they not apologize but they are lying about it,” she added.

Thousands of Iranians have taken to the streets in the capital Tehran to show their dissatisfaction with the events. There are reports of security forces responding to the protests with force, including tear gas.

Trump responds

On Saturday, January 11, President Trump tweeted his support for the protests, calling on Iran’s government to “allow human rights groups to monitor and report facts from the ground on the ongoing protests by the Iranian people.” He says the United States is closely following the protests and “are inspired by your [the Iranian people’s] courage.”