Several dozen Iranian-Canadians gathered in Toronto Monday to show solidarity with those in Iran who are protesting their country’s government in the wake of the deadly downing of a passenger jet.
The protesters in Toronto want to see regime change in Iran and the installation of a democratic system.
Iran has said its forces accidentally shot down a Ukraine International Airlines flight bound for Kyiv last week, killing all 176 people on board.
The vast majority of passengers were en route to Canada.
Mourning over a U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 3 turned to anger on the streets of Tehran after the country’s government on Saturday admitted responsibility for the jet crash.
Hamid Gharajeh, a spokesman for the Iran Democratic Association of Canada, says protesters here are dealing with a mixture of profound sadness and overwhelming anger after the crash.
“We are trying to cope. It’s very sad times,” he said. “People are really fed up and they cannot stay quiet anymore.”
Protesters in Toronto marched around a growing makeshift memorial in the city’s north end that is home to a large Iranian ex-pat population.
Chants of “we support uprising in Iran” echoed in Mel Lastman Square. Some wiped away tears as they examined scores of photographs of those who died in the crash, including 57 Canadians.
Iran at first denied it had played a role in the downing of the airliner but then said the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps accidentally fired a ballistic missile at the plane.
That came just hours after it launched a missile attack on two bases in Iraq housing U.S. troops, which was in retaliation for the strike that killed Soleimani.
A candlelight vigil at an Iranian university rapidly turned into an anti-government demonstration on Saturday shortly after Iran admitted the mistake.
“They are lying that our enemy is America! Our enemy is right here!” students shouted.
Protests in the Iranian capital of Tehran have grown in the interceding days. Online videos appeared to show security forces firing live ammunition and tear gas to disperse protests in the streets on Monday.
The city’s police chief denied it had fired on its citizens.
In Toronto, Mehrdad Ansari said he is worried the protests will end in bloodshed.
“This regime has proven itself,” Ansari said. “We’re worried about everyone in Iran.”
With files from the Associated Press