Screenshot of student in the IRIB video. Undated

Screenshot of student in the IRIB video.

Iran TV Interviews On Ukrainian Plane Downing Were Staged: Interviewee


A student interviewed by Iran’s state-run TV on the downing of an airliner in 2020 says her words were doctored to support the official account of the incident.

The video report in which university student Shaghayegh Amiri appeared was shown by the state-run television (IRIB) on the anniversary of the downing of a Ukrainian airliner on January 8, 2020, by the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). Speaking to local media Tuesday, she said the airing of the vox-pop has caused her great pain because what she appeared to be suggesting in the report was not what she had actually said.

The report consisted of a succession of fast-paced sentences chosen from interviews with young people in Tehran streets. The answers were arranged in a way as to suggest that they all agreed that the decision by the missile operator to shoot down the plane was logical.

The IRGC, which after three days of denial finally admitted that it had downed flight PS752 with two missiles, maintains that the operator of the air defense system mistook the plane for an enemy missile and made a hasty decision to shoot it down to save lives.

Many Iranians, including most of the victims' families, believe that the IRGC intentionally shot down the plane. Such suspicions are reinforced by the fact that the tragedy occurred only hours after the Guards fired more than a dozen missiles at bases hosting American troops in Iraq in retaliation for the US targeted killing of Qods Force Commander Ghasem Soleimani just days earlier.

The young student said many among her family and friends who are not aware of the circumstances in which the interview took place are upset with her that she made remarks contradicting her own beliefs.

In her own defense, Amiri claimed that the interviewers used various tricks to manipulate her and her companion to say what they wanted to hear from them to suit their scripted scenario and heavily edited the footage they had taken to remove what did not fit the script.

According to Amiri, the IRIB reporters approached her as she was waiting for a friend on the street and told her they wanted to ask some questions for a program on the occasion of the second anniversary of the tragedy that killed all 176 onboard the commercial flight.

"They gave me a tablet and asked me to play a video. In it you saw a red spot on a radar screen which indicated danger and you had to decide whether to shoot at it or not … 200 people would be killed if you shot at it and if you didn't, 5,000 lives would be lost. You had to decide [fast] which was more logical, the killing of 200 or the death of 5,000," Amiri said about the circumstances in which the interview took place. She accused the interviewers of insisting that she say she would fire at the plane if she were in a position to have to make a decision.

Amiri said that she challenged the interviewers and pointed out that the first missile shot at the Ukrainian plane may have been fired by mistake, but a second missile was also fired. "I asked them what justified the firing of the second missile. But none of this was included in the video shown on television," she said.

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