January 8, 2020 marks the two-year anniversary of a tragedy Iranians will never forget. On this date, shortly after 6am, the IRGC shot a passenger plane - Ukrainian Airlines Flight 752 - out of the skies over Tehran with two missiles 30 seconds apart. The plane had taken off from Imam Khomeini International Airport just minutes earlier. All 176 people onboard were killed.
Many on the Kyiv-bound flight were Iranians living in Canada who had returned to Iran over the Christmas and New Year holidays, to visit family and friends and spend some time in their home country. Their lives - those of scholars, engineers, teachers, environmentalists, parents, partners, and 29 children -- were then extinguished, in what Iran's military court later ruled had been a moment of "forgetfulness" on behalf of those that shot it down.
Thousands of others the world over do not plan to be so forgetful. To mark the second anniversary of the tragedy IranWire is republishing some of our first coverage of the Flight 752 disaster, at a time when the victims' names - and fragments of information about their stolen lives - were just beginning to surface. These articles have been refined to reflect some of what has been learned since then.
Razgar Rahimi, Farideh Gholami, Jivan Rahimi and his Unborn Sibling
"One of my colleagues was on the plane, with his baby and his pregnant wife. When he’d wanted to come to Iran a month ago, his aunt asked him, 'Are you taking anything for my nieces?'. He said his suitcases were full this time, but he’d take anything next time. There is no next time. They were killed."
Like thousands of others, I read the message on my Instagram page and pause on his name: "His name was Razgar. Razgar Rahimi.”
His image comes to life in front of me. He looks into the camera, beaming. He hugs his young child warmly, his wife resting on his shoulder, and their hands are clasped somewhere around to the child's feet.
Razgar Rahimi, Farideh Gholami and their three-year-old son Jivan were passengers on a Ukrainian Boeing 737 on January 8, 2020, on the way home from Tehran to Canada. They were readying themselves for the arrival of a new family member, who was due to enter the world in two short months’ time. Because of what the Iranian authorities call "human error", the child never had a chance to live.
Born on August 26, 1981, Razgar was a faculty member at Centenial College’s School of Engineering Technology and Applied Science. Farideh was a former fashion designer with a degree in product design, interested in wearable tech. They had come to Canada seven years earlier for Rozgar to pursue his PhD.
In the day that followed the crash, a social media user who said Razgar was one of his father’s cousins, posted a picture of himself with Razgar and his young son. “Razgar Rahimi, Jivan Rahimi,” he wrote. "A father and son next to us. How we laughed. A Kurdish dance... He guided me a great deal. We are all going crazy." Sharing a poster commemorating the three, he added: “We all suffer so much. The [funeral] ceremony was held early, without a corpse... Without a handful of dirt... I hope you return soon, or at least, that the earth calms down.”
Kaveh Ghoreshi, a well-known Iranian Twitter user and commentator, also wrote of his friendship with Razgar. "Razgar Rahimi was our family [friend] and childhood playmate. He was an excellent student from the very beginning. He had just received his doctorate and had been teaching at a university for some time. He returned to Kurdistan from Canada last month after several years. Last night, he and his wife Farideh Gholami and their son Jivan Rahimi (3 years old) died in the Ukrainian plane crash."
A eulogy for Razgar by Dr. Craig Stephenson, CEO of Centennial College, was also shared online. “Professor Rahimi will be remembered as an engaging teacher and mentor, a friendly soul… always willing to assist students with their assignments. He was also a doting father and husband who spoke often of his young family and his many colleagues and friends both in Canada and in Iran.
“I am sure I speak on behalf of us all when I share that we all hope for peace in every nook and cranny of this precious, and one of a kind planet of ours, and an end to the unnecessary tragedies we constantly endure.”
Mehran Abtani: Pioneering Scientist Home for Anniversary
Mehran Abtahi was born and raised in Isfahan. He received his PhD in civil engineering in the Netherlands, and in October 2018, joined the postdoctoral research group in civil engineering at UBC University in British Columbia.
Not long after arriving in Canada, Mehran hosted a TEDx talk on nanofiltration membranes at the University of Helsinki. His findings in this fast-developing field of study were published in an academic journal. “Being one of the pioneers in this newly born field, the research was quite demanding,” he told an interviewer. “The massive response from fellow researchers [at conferences] was heartwarming.’”
Apart from being a trailblazing young scientist, Mehran loved football and had a photo with Alireza Jahanbakhsh, a player on the Iranian national team. He loved autumn, posting a picture of the Vancouver fall and writing: “Neither spring, nor summer, nor winter hold any of the beauties I see in the image of autumn." In December 2018 he had also married his wife, Behnoosh, a pharmacist who lived in Isfahan, and had come back to Iran the following winter so that they could celebrate their first anniversary together. In one of his public posts, Mehran shared a picture of her: "My wife; my everything!"
Masoumeh and Mahdieh Ghavi: “Add My Name to the Casualty List”
"Masoumeh Ghavi and her sister Mahdieh Ghavi were also on that damned flight. Masoumeh was 29, and Mahdieh was just 20 years old.”
Masoumeh Ghavi, an engineering student at Dalhousie University since August 2019, had come back to Iran to spend the Christmas holidays with her family. Her little sister Mahdieh was accompanying her back, due as she was to begin her studies at Saint Mary University in January. The pair shared a smiling picture taken hours before Flight 752 took off, and received good wishes from all their relatives.
Masoumeh had just found a part-time job and, according to her friends, was excited to apply the knowledge and skills she had learned during her school years. She also had a fiancé, Mohammad Aminnia: the pair had got engaged just three days earlier.
“That missile also killed me,” he wrote on Instagram. “Add my name to the casualty list.”