DUBAI — Iran’s statement on Saturday that a Ukrainian passenger plane was downed by a missile fired unintentionally followed growing pressure from abroad but also at home, and for some Iranians, the authorities’ expressions of condolence were not enough.
For days, Iran had denied Western accusations it was responsible for Wednesday’s crash soon after take-off from Tehran, in which all 176 people aboard were killed. Authorities said on Saturday that air defenses had been fired in error while on high alert following Iranian missile strikes on US targets in Iraq.
Expressions of condolence over the incident from Supreme Leader and President Hassan Rouhani failed to calm angry Iranians, who used social media to express their outrage against the establishment for concealing the truth.
“It is a national tragedy. The way it was handled and it was announced by the authorities was even more tragic,” said Ali Ansari, a moderate cleric, according to Iran’s semi-official ILNA news agency.
Many Iranians asked why authorities did not close down Tehran’s airport and the country’s airspace at a time when they would have been on alert for retaliation after the missile strikes.
There were no fatalities in those strikes, launched to avenge the Jan. 3 US killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike in Baghdad.
“They were so careful not to kill any American in their revenge for Soleimani. But they did not close the airport? This shows how much this regime cares for Iranians,” said Mira Sedaghati in Tehran by telephone.