‘If it Wasn't Foreign Flight, Government Would Hide Truth’ – Iranians Talk Plane Crash and Situation in Iran
14 January, 2020
An Iranian woman walks past a poster reading in Persian 'we are all in pain and sympathize' to honor the victims of Ukrainian passenger jet shot down last week. Iran, January 13, 2020. Photo: EPA-EFE/ABEDIN TAHERKENAREH

On January 8, a passenger plane of the Ukrainian International Airlines crashed in Iran. 176 people were on board, all of them died. In two days Iran admitted that it had accidentally downed a Ukrainian plane. Thereafter, anti-government protests began in the country. This is against the backdrop of straining relations with the United States. Many Iranians are convinced that if the plane was not of a foreign flight, the government of Iran would have not admitted the downing. Hromadske talked with Tehran residents about their reaction to the plane crash, life under sanctions, complaints to the government, fear of war and hope for peace. The names were changed at the request of the interviewees.

Ali, 38, musician, Tehran

"My first reaction was of shock – news of missile launches to Iraq in the middle of Iran. I am relieved that the government did admit [to the downing], but don’t know what would have happened if the flight was Iranian.

It is a big thing. They were young people, newly married, and from a very good university. Special people.

Problems and concerns of ordinary Iranians very much differ from that of the regime. Most of the people liked Soleimani as a “defender against ISIS” and, believe it or not, as a more moderate guy among the few powerful men in Iran. Maybe he could be the sound of reason in an inside political scene, or maybe not, but he wasn’t their worst enemy, and he was a military man. Nothing good is expected, and the IRGC would continue as usual. 

I don’t think the war is possible now. Neither of the sides is willing to start a conventional war.

The sanctions are crushing us. No medicine for people and even cats. Prices are going up surely, but because of the sanctions and the fuel price."

Neda, 39, teacher, Tehran

"Speaking about fears and family’s concerns, everyone is shocked [by the crash], and I myself have a flight to take these days and no one knows if it will be canceled or not.

I didn’t attend the protests, but lots of my friends went and going to go as well. I don’t think war is going to happen but does it matter? We lost more than 2,000 people [during protests] since October!"

Iranians protest to show their sympathy for the victims of the Ukraine International Airlines plane crash, in front of the Amir Kabir University in Tehran on Saturday. Photo: Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA-EFE/

Abbas, 38, IT specialist, Tehran

"People are so furious because the government had concealed the truth for three days. People say we are tolerating economic pressures and other difficulties for their missile programs. The government’s justification was 'we need missiles for our security' but now it targeted our security and it's miserably funny.

People believe that if it was not a foreign airline, the authorities would hide the truth forever. So it destroyed trust in the government seriously.

We don’t feel safe in Iran mostly in terms of economic affairs. We fear sanctions and economic pressure increase. People really faced difficulties to make ends meet.

Soleimani’s killing was quite shocking. He was a hero of the Islamic republic. There are many theories about his death. Some believe it was planned, and after Iran's missile attack this theory intensified. People believed his death help the government because the authorities could distract people from the killing of protesters recently – due to increasing oil prices and so on.

People don't think the war will happen. On the other hand, some believe we’re approaching a compromise instead of war, because compromise happens after clashes. The situation is similar to the end of the war between Iran and Iraq. It’s obvious that both sides don't want war. But in terms of people’s support, Iran’s position is quite different from those days when they had the war with Iraq – now the government does not have people’s support.

Most of the Iranian politicians have American or Canadian citizenship. Their children live there and enjoy life. I mean there is an obvious rift between rich people and poor people, an obvious gap between ordinary people and politicians. It’s so miserable, but some people want war."

/ by Angelina Kariakina

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