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.
Neda, the Tall Blue Wave of the Caspian Sea
For Neda Sadighi, a PS752 Passenger
By Farzad Alavi
Neda was born in Urmia, Iran in 1969. She moved with her family to the city of Sari at the age of five and grew up to graduate from high school in that city. Neda was the lively, lighthearted firstborn of the family and a role model for her two sisters and her extended family alike. On the one hand, her extraordinary performance at school consistently secured her the first or second places in the provincial rankings year after year. And on the other hand, she also excelled at sports being a member of the provincial volleyball team. She was a superb swimmer as well and held a lifeguard certificate from a young age. As a teenager, she spent hours biking along on the streets playfully, the memories of which she would later recount joyously while bragging about her wheelies on her beloved Yamaha bike. Yet what Neda loved the most was swimming through the tall blue waves of the Caspian Sea and freeing her body and soul in the magnificence of the deep waters.
Neda’s hard work at school paid off when she received her admission to the medical school at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran. Excited at the life laid ahead of her, she embarked on the lengthy journey of medical studies which took her closer to her childhood dream of becoming a scientist, a vision that she would later joke about with much humility.
On one of the last days of the second year of her studies, she stumbled upon a young man who would ignite the spark of a deep love in her heart and go on to become her husband in the next two years. The birth of their only son, Amirali, in the second year of their marriage brought Neda endless bliss despite the hardships of raising a child while being a student. Since he was only a couple of years old, Neda immersed her son in poems and tales, narrating so passionately that would meld her into the books and leave Amirali wondering whether she was just the narrator or that she had come from the books herself. Neda nurtured in her son the notion of the finest form of selfless love. Anybody who knew Neda was well- aware of her endless love for her son—a love that persisted, a love that flourished and showed him around wherever he went.
Years passed by and Neda graduated from university, moved to the city of Ardebil alongside her family and started her medical practice. She knew, however, that her ambitions would not be fulfilled before reaching higher peaks in science. So while working, she started to prepare zealously for the admission exam of specialty programs. As always, her efforts paid off and she was accepted into her favorite specialty, ophthalmology, at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran.
Dr. Neda Sadighi tirelessly persisted through four more years of studies and earned her degree to become an eye surgeon. During her residency, not only did she continue to invest time into raising and caring for her son despite her demanding schedule, but she also maintained her active lifestyle and was the prominent, passionate swimmer at their residential complex. Upon graduation, she immediately started her practice at a number of clinics and hospitals. Owing to her dexterity, dependability and compassion, she quickly landed at the most reputable medical centres in Tehran and treated numerous patients with outstanding results.
After nearly six years of practice as an eye surgeon and attaining an excellent professional and social status in Iran, Neda was faced with a sharp dilemma. She needed to decide whether to immigrate and leave behind the myriad of achievements of 25 years of her relentless studies, or instead to stay in Iran and continue with the circumstances of the time. In the end, Neda moved past her accomplishments—and even her professor’s offer to pursue a fellowship in corneal surgery which she had considered as her next goal to achieve—to join her husband and son in Canada in 2011. Undeterred by her initial despair at the outlook of her career in Canada given the perplexing obstacles for foreign medical graduates, Neda soon found her footing and transitioned to optometry through the University of Waterloo. With her newly found path, she went back to studying hard for her aspirations, even though it did not leave her with enough time to visit her parents and sisters in Iran for the duration of her program. During those years, sadly, she lost her father to a sudden death, which struck her with an everlasting sorrow that she born in her heart for not being by her father’s side during his last moments.
Time went by, and through it all Neda persisted and overcame the difficulties of studying within an unfamiliar environment in a new country. She successfully acquire her optometry degree and soon became the well-versed and warm-hearted optometrist of Toronto and London of Ontario. All of her patients and the office staff loved her tender manner and gracious ways of dealing with people. Neda had a particular affinity with children at her office, leaving them with sweet memories by rewarding them with special prizes at each visit. For five years, she drove 2.5 hours every week on her own to London at dawn—and back to Toronto at late night—to visit her awaiting patients during her two- to three-day stays. Nothing was an excuse for Neda; from exhaustion and ailment, to thunderstorms and blizzards, simply nothing could stand on her way to getting to her patients on time.
Neda’s heavy workload was never a hindrance for her personal life. Her unending motherly love thrived and the company of her son—now a young man—was among the sweetest of her times. She enriched her time with daily exercises, audiobooks and plans with friends, while celebrations and gatherings were the usual highlights of her weeks. She was sociable with her colleagues too, consulting courteously with them on different topics whenever possible. In the same way, her generosity manifested itself in her offers of help to her new colleagues.
Towards the end of 2019, Neda planned a trip to Iran over the winter holidays to visit her mother and sisters who were eager to reunite with her after three years of being apart. Before leaving, she also decided to focus her practice on her Toronto office after years of intense work schedule. So in a bittersweet evening, she said goodbye to her patients and staff in London just a week before leaving for Iran, hoping that she would return to a more peaceful life after the holidays—a dream that was robbed away from her tragically after years of hard work.
Neda flew the unreturning flight to Iran ten days before the New Year. Over her short trip, she met with many old friends and family one after the other. She greeted all of them with incredible warmth and love, as they described. Their goodbye exchanges were, however, blue and gloomy, as if she somehow knew that these meet-ups would be her last. Astonishingly, she even spoke of an ominous feeling of an imminent explosion on her return flight during her conversations with her sister. Nonetheless, her sense of responsibility for her patients given the scheduled appointments prompted her to hang on to her booked return flight. She boarded that fateful flight that took away hopeful dreams, tore apart vibrant families, and shattered fervent hearts.
Neda cherished her life and exuded love wherever she went. She savoured every moment of her short life and found joy in every moment—from calm lakes near London in the summertime, to exhilarating cliff jumps when she had a day off. In the same way, she loved travelling and new adventures, always choosing the most thrilling activities on every trip. Everyone remembers Neda with her gleeful laughter from the bottom of her heart. Her affable attitude drew in everybody at any age, granting them the gift of pure joy. Neda defeated the hardships time after time through her unmatched and steady perseverance, and she climbed to the peaks of the medical sciences. Still, her successes never took away anything from her humility. With her sensible mindset, she never wasted a second of her rich life and continued to be a growing role model for everyone who knew her.
Neda’s unparalleled character was a sanctum of safety enriched with her grace and devotion. All that she did centred around providing comfort and care for her family. Now, her joyful laughter is left off at her home. Her empty place is left off at her home. The photos of her untraveled journeys are faded on the walls. She took away with her all the times that she would not waste and all the minutes that she would treasure. But her kindness still lingers with a deep scar on the hearts of her loved ones—a scar that will forever remain burning and blazing red. Neda will never be forgotten.