On January 8, 2020, a Ukrainian Airlines passenger aircraft was shot down over Tehran by two missiles launched by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The tragedy, which Iran still insists was the result of "human error", claimed the lives of all 176 people onboard and pitched their families and loved ones into a living nightmare - one they are still living through today.
Among the innocent civilians on Flight 752 were 82 Iranian citizens, 63 Canadians,11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, seven Afghans, three Britons and three Germans. They included doctors, students, athletes, activists and environmentalists: individuals pursuing their own dreams and ambitions both inside and outside Iran, and with bright futures ahead of them.
An international investigation into the incident is underway, spearheaded by Canada, France and Ukraine. But in the meantime, the devastated families of the PS752 passengers are still in limbo. Bereft of either justice or accountability for the disaster that shattered their lives, some of these individuals are now being represented by the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims, which has published a series of heart-rending personal letters and testimonies to honor those who were killed on January 8.
IranWire is supporting the Association's fight for justice by translating these final tributes into English and publishing them on our pages. We hope that through these efforts, the remarkable lives and aspirations of those aboard Flight 752 will not be forgotten.
Suzanne, Fairy of the Faraway Seas
For Suzanne Golbabapour, A PS752 Passenger
By Hamed Esmaelion
Suzanne Golbabapour met Behrooz on August 25, 2016. On August 31, they went for coffee for the first time. “Do you drink it bitter or with sugar?” They both laughed.
Your heart beats faster on the way to a date. Your hands shake when you fix up your collar. A drop of coffee on your pants and you’ll be fraught with embarrassment. The cafe dates went on for ten more days, and for ten days they met at the same time and talked. Any passerby might have assumed it was a work meeting. The cafe owner might have assumed two old friends were reconnecting with each other after years apart. Four months later, Behrooz asked for Suzanne’s hand and they got married.
When Suzanne first came to Canada, she worked as a sports coach, wading knee-deep through snow and catching the bus get to her student athletes. Suzanne had a MA in chemistry from Iran and many years of experience, and in Iran, she had relied on her education for work. But in new lands, you find new ways. By the time she met Behrooz, Suzanne was becoming an expert in real estate and beginning to cultivate relations with people in this new land. And then Behrooz came by.
Now, in Behrooz and Suzanne’s house, everything is orderly. Behrooz never smokes anymore. He works out. He goes to work on time and comes back on time. He has made it in life. This is real happiness, right here, with them. Thanks to Behrooz, Suzanne now loves scuba diving and they both hold the elementary certificate. Where should we go next? Jamaica or Mexico? Where should we go? Cold or warm waters?
More than fifty times, they’ve dived down to the depths of the oceans. They have laughed on the shore, they have kissed by the corals. Once more to dive, to breathe together under the water, where laughter, cries and love are all but bubbles of oxygen. Now they need to get the advanced certificate. Behrooz and Suzanne know no past. No future. Past, present and future is all about being together. Suzanne picks up shells from the sandy beaches and gathers them together, like the sweet days of life itself.
Suzanne has to go back to Iran. Her mother is old and sick. Suzanne has a work appointment in Canada, but should go to Iran for her mother. So she does. In the three weeks she is gone, Behrooz is restless in their darkened house. In her absence, the space has become a gloomy coral reef. “Come back, Suzanne!”
And Suzanne wants to come back, sooner than January 8, but her heart is restless.
“Come back, Suzanne, please come back.”
Suzanne can’t break her mother’s heart. “Bear it for two more weeks, my dear, I’ll come back.” She tries to change her flights a couple of times but can’t. She buys and sends a gift online for Behrooz’s birthday: boxes of chocolate, with love. But what good to Behrooz is a lonely birthday?
Suzanne will not come back. In her last message to Behrooz, she says: “I am going to the airport. Don’t clean up the house. We’ll fix it up together.”
Suzanne will not come back. Behrooz has cleaned the house, all shiny and bright. The house smells fresh, there is light in the mirrors. Behrooz has prepared his best shirt for when he goes to the airport. At the airport, he will see a man welcome his wife and daughter back home with a hug. He will see a woman kiss her husband on the lips, her two kids in tow. He will not know them.
But overnight, on the night of the flight, Behrooz is nervous for no reason. His body sweats unaccountably. He goes to bed. He is worried – he doesn’t know why – and Suzanne, Suzanne, Suzanne... Just at the very moment Behrooz is going to sleep, Suzanne is locating her seat on the plane. 28F.
Suzanne will not come back. Behrooz is abruptly woken at 7am by a phone call. “Behrooz! What’s Suzanne’s father’s name?” Behrooz remembers.
They call again. “Behrooz! Have you heard from Suzanne?” He knows. Suzanne is on the way.
They call again. “Behrooz, do you know about the plane? You know her plane has crashed?”
Suzanne will not come back. Behrooz’s hands are still shaking after all the punches he gave to the wall. His fingers are still covered with dust and wood. A minute later, they find his phone, broken. They sent him to the hospital.
Suzanne will not come back. Suzanne was shot down. Behrooz was shot down too. Suzanne’s funeral was in Iran and she was buried somewhere in Tehran under the name “Martyr Suzanne Golbabapoor”. Behrooz’s body is also passed from one set of hands to the next in Toronto, with a tranquilizer, with his loneliness. “Not much was left of her.” Behrooz remembers, even though he has lost his short-time memory.
Suzanne will not come back. Her closet is full of clothes, untouched. Her shoes, her dress, her black winter coat are all untouched. Behrooz’s birthday gift, boxes of chocolate with love, remain untouched. But Suzanne’s advanced scuba diving certificate is there, in a special letter on her desk.
Suzanne will not come back and Behrooz can’t go to work. Therapy doesn’t work either. He wants to do what he does every August: to go and sit in the same cafe in which he first waited for Suzanne for the first time, and laughingly ask his guest, “Do you like your coffee bitter or with sugar?” He wants the cafe owner to think they are old friends, and for a passerby to think this is a work date.
But Behrooz has been robbed of this. Now, he can only say for certain that he will leave this city. He will leave this neighborhood. I will bring them to justice, he thinks. I will bring justice for the days Suzanne never lived. Out loud, he can only wipe a tear from the corner of his eye and say: “Why? Why did you shoot the second missile?”
Suzanne will not come back, but Behrooz is scuba diving. He, too, is in the depth of the ocean – but this time without a light, without a guide, without a friend, without bubbles of oxygen, without a sign that could show whether he is laughing or crying.
Translator: Arash Azizi
Editor: Hannah Somerville