01/16/2020, 11.00
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Tehran, first burials of plane crash victims as protest subsides

Great emotion and participation in the funeral. Moments of tension when the relatives of one victim ripped the flag from the coffin. 123 of the 176 passengers on board identified. Police and security forces patrol universities. IMF: if sanctions continue, unemployment will exceed 20% and the economy will drop by 7.2%.

Tehran (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Iranians have begun to bury the victims of the Ukrainian airliner, shot down by the Iranian army over the skies of Tehran in the frantic night of attacks against US targets in Iraq.

The incident triggered street protests – which continued for five consecutive days - in the capital and in the main centers of the country, forcibly repressed (with bullets according to unconfirmed reports) by the security forces.

The funerals saw mass participation and moments of tension. In a video posted online, the relatives of one of the victims are seen removing the Iranian flag from the coffin where the body was laid and the mother repeatedly screaming "Take it off", indicating the national flag.

According to reports from the Ilna agency, the head of forensic medicine recognized the identities of 123 of the 176 total victims. Some of the bodies have been buried in the Behesht-e Zahra cemetery, south of Tehran, while others will be transferred abroad. Several universities in Canada (nationalities of 63 of the 176 people on board) held a prayer vigil and one minute of silence for the victims, many of whom were students, teachers and researchers from 19 universities in the country.

The aircraft crashed on the night of maximum tension (January 8) between the Islamic Republic and the United States, when Tehran launched a missile attack against US targets in Iraq in response to the killing of General Qasem Soleimani, head of the Qods Force. Yesterday social media re-launched the invitation to new protests across the country, however there were no mass demonstrations on the streets as in the previous days. On the other hand, riot police patrolled the external areas of the most important universities in the capital, the heart of the protest.

Meanwhile, the effects of US sanctions against Iran are beginning to bite. US President Donald Trump re-introduced the measures in the aftermath of the withdrawal from the nuclear deal in May 2018 and the introduction of a "maximum pressure" policy towards Tehran. The Iranian economy is traveling faster and further towards recession in this fiscal year and foreign reserves could drop to $ 73 billion by March, with a loss of at least $ 40 billion in two years.

The economy contracted by 4.6% in the 2018-2019 fiscal year and a further contraction to 7.2% is expected for this year. Last week, the White House introduced further sanctions against 17 metal producers and mining companies in response to the attack on US troops in Iraq.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) stresses that if the United States maintains the sanctions "after two years of deep recession, growth will remain contained in the medium term, unemployment will grow over 20% and reserves will drop to 20 billion in 2023". On the other hand, if the US were to ease the sanctions, according to the IMF, growth could exceed 6% per annum, foreign reserves would reach 143 billion and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) will double to 639 billion by March 2024.

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