Nearly two dozen spoke at a powerful and emotional tribute Sunday to the 176 people who died when the plane was shot down by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard within minutes of taking off.
When Montrealers Arvin Morattab and Aida Farzaneh perished in the crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 over Tehran on Jan. 8, “we lost not only lost my brother and sister-in-law. We lost two beautiful souls full of kindness, energy, optimism and many plans for their life,” said Armin Morattab, Arvin’s twin brother.
Morattab was among nearly two dozen speakers at a powerful and emotional tribute Sunday to the 176 people who died when the plane was shot down by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard within minutes of taking off. Most of the passengers were bound for Canada, including seven from Quebec.
Several hundred attended the event, intended to comfort families and members of the Iranian community affected by the tragedy. There were testimonies from relatives, friends and professors of those who perished and messages of condolences from federal, provincial and municipal politicians. There was a musical tribute and a stunning spiritual dance performed by Tanya Evanson.
The event, held at the Centre Mont-Royal in downtown Montreal, was organized by the Centre social d’aide aux immigrants, student associations of Concordia University, McGill University, Université de Montréal, the Literary Association of Iranians of Montreal and the Maison culturelle de de l’Iran. Representatives of the Ukrainian and Afghan communities also spoke.
Among those who died were highly educated people who had brought their intellect and knowledge to Quebec and elsewhere in Canada, said CSAI director Lida Aghasi. “They wanted to live in a marvellous country like ours, to live in peace. We are in mourning. But it is up to us to honour their memory.”
She said the CSAI would set up two $5,000 scholarships in the name of the victims.
“Words, for the families, will not change the pain,” said Nadine Girault, Coalition Avenir Québec MNA for Bertrand and Quebec’s representative of the minister of International Relations and La Francophonie. “The only response is to share. We share this grief with you. We give our solidarity and our compassion. We are all the passenger of PS 752.”
Said Dominique Anglade, Liberal MNA for Saint-Henri—Sainte-Anne: “The best homage is to find out how they touched us and our society. … They will survive in the way in which they transformed us.”
Asieh Banisadr, whose mother, Niloufar Sadr, perished in the crash, described her grief and the shared grief of everyone bereaved as “unbelievable.” But her mother would say “not to focus on the loss,” she said. “She would say, ‘Let us focus on the message of love.’”
Soraya Martinez, Liberal MP for Hochelaga and parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, called the loss of life “a national tragedy.”
But Armin Morattab and others questioned whether the downing of the plane was simply a tragedy.
“In my opinion, it was a criminal act,” he said. “It was a shooting down by missiles.
“After days of sorrow, a lot of questions have come to our mind, like why they let the plane depart, when there was a war in the region, like why the plane took off from the airport.”
He said “a deep investigation about the facts, about what happened that night, before and after, should take place, “and we insist on bringing those who were responsible for this to justice.”
Calling the crash a mistake “is not enough,” said Elnaz Moein, a former roommate and close friend of Sara Mamani, who perished in the crash with her husband, Siavash Ghafouri-Azar.
I cannot believe I lost my beautiful friend,” she said. “This tragic loss changed the lives of so many of us.
“We need clear answers. We need to know what happened to them and why,” Moein said.
“We cry because of their death but we are also angry, said Amir Khadir, Québec solidaire MNA for Mercier. It was “revolting negligence: that Iran did not close its airspace.”
He cited Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s observation in the wake of the crash it would not have taken place if not for the escalating tensions between Iran and the United States.
Although Khadir said he and the prime minister do not share many opinions, Trudeau’s words were “words of great lucidity and courage.”
He said Canada, with Ukraine and in collaboration with all the countries affected by the tragedy, “can, if they act together, have a great deal of influence.”