Daniel Ghods holds a photo of his girlfriend Saba Saadat, who died in the crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, in Edmonton, Thursday, Dec. 31, 2020. Saba's sister, Sara, and their mother Dr. Shekoufeh Choupannejad were also on the flight and died in the crash. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Amber Bracken

‘Cannot imagine your pain:’ Canadians mark anniversary of jet downing in Iran

‘Cannot imagine your pain:’ Canadians mark anniversary of jet downing in Iran

TORONTO — Anguished relatives in Canada mourned the loss of loved ones on Friday as they called for justice for the victims of a passenger jet the Iranian military shot down one year ago.

Memorial ceremonies, part of an international effort, began with a livestream on Thursday at 9:42 p.m. ET, the time the doomed Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 left Tehran’s international airport.

In a chilly Toronto under sunny skies, a few hundred people gathered in near silence, some with tears streaming into their black face masks with “Justice” written on them. They carried placards bearing the faces of the dead.

“We lost them unjustly. They were innocent people. They were ordinary civilians. They were doing nothing against anyone,” said Farzad Alavi whose wife Neda Sadighi was killed.

“Some people from a very cruel government, to save themselves, killed these innocent people. It wasn’t an accident. We look for justice.”

More than 100 of the 176 victims — at least one was pregnant — had ties to Canada, and 55 were Canadian citizens. Commemorative outdoor rallies were also scheduled Friday for Montreal and Edmonton.

An international group advocating for the victims called on Iran to come clean on what led to the downing of the plane. The statement also called on Tehran to compensate relatives properly.

“We urgently call on Iran to provide a complete and thorough explanation of the events and decisions that led to this appalling plane crash,” the International Coordination and Response Group for the victims of Flight PS752 said.

“Our countries will hold Iran to account to deliver justice and make sure Iran makes full reparations to the families of the victims and affected countries.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Iran to provide the transparency, accountability and justice he said the victims and their families deserve.

“To everyone who was looking forward to seeing your beloved partner, child or parent, I cannot imagine your pain,” Trudeau said to relatives of those killed. “This kind of unthinkable tragedy must never happen again.”

At the Toronto rally, Rana Yekani sobbed as she held a sign bearing the face of her longtime friend Paniz Solatani.

“One-hundred-seventy-six civilians were shot down, were burned alive, torn to pieces on the ground,” Yekani said. “It’s horrible. Never, in my wildest nightmare would I have thought it.”

The memorial ceremonies, organized by the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims, heard from loved ones speaking Farsi over images of faces young and old. Biographies of the 176 victims were read throughout Thursday night.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards shot down the Kyiv-bound Boeing 737-800 shortly after it took off from Tehran.

A few days earlier, U.S. President Donald Trump had ordered a strike on the Baghdad airport, killing a top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani. Iran initially denied downing the airliner, then said it was shot down accidentally after mistaking it for a missile.

Tehran recently pledged to pay $150,000 to each victim’s families. But relatives in Canada say they only care about answers.

Masoud Niknam, brother of dentist Farhad Niknam who was killed, said what happened was a terrorist attack and those responsible should pay for their crimes.

In an earlier statement, Trudeau said Canada would offer a pathway to permanent residency for some family members, while those already here could apply to stay if needed. Canada, he said, was designating Jan. 8 as the National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Air Disasters.

The federal government also said scholarships would be set up in memory of the victims.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who announced $250,000 for a memorial fund at the University of Alberta, also expressed his condolences.

“For those who mourn lost loved ones, the pain is as raw and the sense of loss as overpowering as the moment they heard the terrible news last January,” Kenney said.

On Friday, Western University announced an annual $3,000 fund in the name of one of four students at the school in London, Ont., killed on the flight.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 8, 2021.

Colin Perkel and Liam Casey, The Canadian Press

Note to readers:

Flight 752 crash in Iran

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A 36-year-old Eckville man was sentenced in Red Deer provincial court to 18 years in prison and declared a long-term offender for abusing children as young as two.
Advocate file photo
Central Alberta pedophile sentenced to 18 years in prison and declared a long-term offender

Eckville man abused nearly a dozen children as young as two over nearly a decade

Sundre RCMP charged two people with drug trafficking. (File photo by Advocate staff)
$50,000 solar light tower stolen in 2019, recovered in Central Alberta

A solar light tower valued at over $50,000 was recovered by Wetaskiwin… Continue reading

Red Deer transit buses are returning to a regular half-hour schedule. (Advocate file photo).
Red Deer Transit returns to regular bus frequency

Buses will return to running every half hour on Wednesday

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

WASHINGTON — Canada won’t stop trying to convince U.S. president-elect Joe Biden… Continue reading

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

A worker installs flags on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, in Washington. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/David Phillip
‘Very mesmerizing’: Canadians eye Biden inauguration with relief, anxiety

Katie Thompson noticed a pattern emerging with appointments made at her chiropractic… Continue reading

Parliamentary interpreter Nicole Gagnon poses for a photo on Parliament Hill, Tuesday January 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Parliamentary hearings over Zoom an ongoing headache for translators

OTTAWA — Each day, translator Nicole Gagnon wakes up and heads to… Continue reading

People lineup at a hotel for the homeless before the 8 p.m. COVID-19 curfew on Jan. 11, 2021, in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Montreal mayor wants homeless exempted from curfew in wake of Innu man’s death

Montreal’s mayor is calling on the provincial government to exempt homeless people… Continue reading

Conservative MP Derek Sloan arrives at West Block Thursday December 3, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Tories unsettled over whether ends justifies the means in ouster of Derek Sloan

OTTAWA — Efforts to oust controversial Conservative MP Derek Sloan from the… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question as he participates in a news conference at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
No Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine doses to be shipped to Canada next week: Fortin

OTTAWA — Canada is not going to get any vaccine does from… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to a question as he participates in a news conference at Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Cancel foreign trips because travel rules could change suddenly, Trudeau says

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says any Canadian planning an international… Continue reading

Joel Johnston held a selfie stick when he did the Polar Plunge, in support of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics Alberta, at the Bower-Kin Community Centre in Red Deer on March 9, 2019. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Polar Plunge for Special Olympics goes virtual

Law Enforcement Torch Run Polar Plunge for Special Olympics Alberta

Catherine Hay. Photo Submitted
Central Albertan lobbying government to help those affected by CERB repayments

Catherine Hay says she received a letter in November saying she had to completely repay the benefit

Most Read