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Plane crash mourners rip Iran flag from victims' coffins in anger

A 11 January vigil for crash victims in Tehran turned into an anti-government protest [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 January, 2020

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Videos from the funerals of plane crash victims in Iranian Kurdistan show mourners pulling Iranian flags off the coffins, reflecting rising anti-government anger since authorities admitted shooting down the plane.
Videos from the funerals of plane crash victims in Iranian Kurdistan show mourners pulling Iranian flags off the coffins, reflecting rising anti-government anger since authorities admitted shooting down the plane.

Footage emerged on Thursday of mourners attending the funeral processions of Iranian victims of the 8 January plane crash, pulling the national flag off the coffins in an apparent show of anger towards the government over the disaster, which saw 176 people killed.

Mass protests broke out in Iran for four consecutive nights with thousands taking to the streets nationwide following the authorities' admission it unintentionally shot down the Ukrainian passenger jet moments after it had taken off from Tehran.

Comment: Is this Iran's 'Chernobyl moment'?

Videos circulating on Twitter showed individuals in the northwestern Kurdish-majority city of Mahabad ripping Islamic Republic flags off coffins being marched through crowds of mourners.

Amnesty International accused Iranian security forces of using "unlawful force" against peaceful protests, citing their use of rubber bullets, tear gas and pepper spray, along with pointed air gun pellets normally used for hunting.

It said security forces also beat demonstrators with batons, kicked and punched them and made arbitrary arrests during protests on Saturday and Sunday.

The marginalisation of Kurds in Iran has led many to reject Iranian nationalism, however observers have pointed out this may have increased since the plane tragedy.

Anti-government slogans were also reportedly chanted at another funeral procession for plane crash victims in Sanandaj, another city in Iranian Kurdistan, where Iranian flags were also reportedly taken off the coffins.

Despite the domestic unrest, Iran's foreign minister on Thursday ordered countries whose citizens died in the tragedy not to turn it into a "political issue".

Read more: The US never supported Kurdish secession, either in Syria or Iraq

Iranian Kurds make up about 7-10 percent of the country's population. According to an Amnesty report, Kurds in Iran face "deep-rooted discrimination," affecting their social, political, economic and cultural rights, leading to entrenched poverty in Kurdish regions.

Their marginalisation has led to a build-up of secessionist aspirations among some Iranian Kurds, increasing after the establishment in 2005 of an autonomous Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq.

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