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'We never forget': Families of Flight PS752 victims gather in North Vancouver

Family members from the North Shore are leaders in an effort to bring the case to the International Court of Justice

On Monday the rain was falling continuously while candles were lit at the Shipyards in North Vancouver, in memory of the 176 passengers who lost their lives on Flight PS752 on Jan. 8, 2020.

Families of the victims gathered inside the Pipe Shop Venue on the North Vancouver waterfront. Among them were Beheshteh Rezapour, Bahareh’s mother; Hooriran Sohrab, Negar’s mother; Arman Abtahi, Mehran’s brother; and Omid Omidbakhsh, Roja’s father. These are just a few members of the many families.

“Remember me, a passenger on a plane that never reached its destination,” began Sohrab as she read a statement from the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims on the fourth anniversary of the downing of Flight PS752. She lost her 30-year-old daughter, Negar Borghei, and son-in-law, Alvand Sadeghi, on the flight. Also on board were Sadeghi’s sister, Sahand, and her five-year-old daughter Sophie, who were returning to Canada.

The flight was tragically shot down over Iran by two missiles fired by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. After the plane crashed the authorities cleaned up the crash site and bulldozed the area in a few hours. The Islamic Republic regime continued to deny any involvement for three days. On the fourth day, the regime admitted that Flight PS752 was shot down by two missiles fired by the IRGC. Among the 176 people who lost their lives were 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents of Canada.

On Monday the association reiterated its demands, which include filing an application to initiate provisional measures at The Hague in light of the regime’s treatment of the families of the victims, the RCMP opening a criminal case in Canada, and placing the IRGC on the list of terrorist organizations.

Sohrab concluded her remarks with the statement “We never forget, we never forgive,” and people echoed.

“We lost so many people from our community and all of us, whether you’re of Iranian descent and part of that diaspora or not, come together to grieve this terrible loss,” said Brenda Bailey, British Columbia’s Minister of Jobs, Economic Development, and Innovation.

In July 2023, the Flight PS752 case was referred to the International Court of Justice. The minister highlighted the significant role played by the families and friends of the victims.

“The families and friends of flight PS752 victims have so much to be proud of. They have been tireless advocates for justice and their work continues,” said Bailey.

“We know that the federal government has moved forward in terms of investigations and were dissatisfied with the findings that came out of Iran,” she said. “The federal government leads on this file, and I think that the extraordinary advocacy that we’ve seen from the people in North Vancouver, West Vancouver, and Vancouver should be commended, and certainly our provincial government stands with them.”

Bailey then took a close look at the picture of the victims before meeting with family members such as Rezapour and Sohrab.

Goodbye friend

A man who attended Monday’s event in North Vancouver recalled how, four years ago, he waited for his friend, Fareed Arasteh, 32, who was one of the passengers on the PS752 flight. The man has attended several rallies following the tragedy and always brings with him a picture of Fareed.

He remembers his friends in Iran calling and informing him that the plane had crashed.

“I was supposed to pick him up at the airport,” he said. “The memories are quite cloudy and vague because we were all in shock, and it was a disaster.”

He hopes that the recent development of the flight PS752 case being referred to the International Court of Justice leads to a resolution.

“We all need to know the reason behind this and the units responsible in this crime, and we’re hoping that the international community can help us reach that point,” he said.

He preferred to remain anonymous during the interview, and when asked to be in a photograph, he insisted: “just the picture of Fareed.”

A monument in memory of Flight PS752 victims will be established in North Vancouver.

Hamid Jafari is a Vancouver-based freelance journalist who writes about the Iranian community in Canada, art, culture, and social media trends. [email protected]