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.
Shekiba Feghahati and Rosstin Moghaddam: A Father Left Alone
The camera pivots. The door opens. We see a child's room, stuffed with curiosities and games. A Lego collection, a bamboo vase, scores of models, and then the camera spins, spins round, and the man's voice is ruined. "Dear Rosstin, I arranged all your Legos, I cleaned them all for you,” he pleads. He moves to the bed: “Sorry, kid. I’ve been in your bed for a few nights." With tears in his eyes, he adds: “Be patient. Daddy will join you soon."
The father’s name is Shahin Moghaddam. His 10-year-old son Rosstin and wife of 14 years, Shekiba Feghahati, were both passengers on Flight 752. Aged 39 at the time of her death, Shakiba was an economics graduate, going on to study public administration in Canada’s York University. a bachelor's degree in economics. She immigrated to Canada seven years ago and was married to Shahin Moghaddam fourteen years ago. After emigrating, she first studied public administration at York University in Canada.
"I lost almost [my whole] life," Moghaddam told a Canadian newspaper. "No more future, no more family.” His wife, he said, was an “angel”, his son a “wonderful treasure.” Rosstin loved swimming, taekwondo and playing the piano, and was fluent in four languages. When he grew up, he wanted to be Justin Trudeau. “I don’t know what to do,” his father said. “How to start again.”
The pair had gone back to Iran to visit Shekiba’s family over Christmas. In the end, Shahin stayed behind to carry out some outstanding tasks and look after the house. “I contacted them a few minutes before the flight and this was the last time I saw them."
Behnaz Ebrahimi and Rahmtin Admadi: A Promise to Return
Behnaz Ebrahimi and her nine-year-old son, Rahmtin Ahmadi, had also gone back to Iran to visit her mother. Behnaz was a Tehran University graduate and a member of the Ontario Public Services Employees Union, working as a property valuation analyst. She had moved to Toronto 16 years ago with her husband, Hadi Ahmadi. The devastated Hadi was mentioned by name in an online by Hamed Esmailion, who also lost his wife and daughter in the crash.
“Hadi,” wrote Hamed. “We saw each other in the airport inspection queue. You were crying, Hadi. You had four bottles of mineral water with you. I said, ‘Your son?’. You said, ‘My wife and son.’ I said, ‘My wife and daughter.’ Your son, nine years old, my daughter, nine years old. We hugged each other at the gate and cried. I said, ‘We’re still in shock, we don’t yet understand.’ You said, ‘We are in shock, we don’t understand.’ I asked, ‘Hadi, where are we going? Are we going to put our children in the grave?’ We cried. You understand me, Hadi. You are the only one who understands the depth of this sorrow, Hadi. You understand this empty hole."
A relative of Hadi Ahmadi's late, brilliant wife told IranWire: "Write about Rahmtin and Behnaz too. Behnaz had come back to see her mother. When she said goodbye, she said they’d come back again. Her mother was very restless. It was as if she knew this was the last meeting."
The bodies of Behnaz and Ramtin were delivered to their families in Iran on the morning of January 14, 2020, and buried at 10am that day.
Amir Oveyzi, Sara Hamzaei and Asal Oveyzi: The Last Flight
Just like others, they were back home to see their parents, aunts and uncles, and cousins for the Christmas holidays. They had a party, had a good time, and were preparing to make their way back home for normal life to resume. Amir Oveyzi, his wife Sara Hamzaei and their six-year-old daughter Asal were onboard Flight 752, and never made it to Canada.
A week later, a picture of Amir tossing little Asal up into the sky – her smiling in delight, arms and legs stretched out like a bird in flight – will be on the cover of the National Post. They are no longer in this world.
“I was wondering if they were on the plane,” a neighbor told reporters through tears. “Oh no. I knew they were going back home. They told me to watch the house. I had been looking after the driveway for them. Oh my God, I didn’t know they were on the plane.”