'It's like a day after the crash;' A year later, pain remains for families of PS752 victims

Flowers and candles are placed in front of portraits of the flight crew members of the Ukrainian 737-800 plane that crashed on the outskirts of Tehran, at a memorial inside Borispil international airport outside Kyiv, Ukraine, in this file photo from Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. (File/AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

A year after Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was shot down over Iran, relatives of the victims say the pain is still fresh.

“These days, it's like a day after the crash,” said Montrealer Armin Morattab, who lost his brother, Arvin, and sister-in-law, Aida Farzaneh.

Arvin and Aida, who both lived in Montreal, had bright futures ahead of them, Morattab said. The couple, who were both studying for their doctorates at the Ecole de technologie superieure, wanted to buy a house and have children.

The couple had gone to spend two weeks in Iran to see friends and family. Prior to the crash, Morattab said he was worried about them as tensions between the United States and Iran had escalated following the assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

“My brother Arash and I called several times to tell them to take care of themselves, that it wasn't a good situation, that there could be an attack,” he said. “Unfortunately, it happened.”

“Every day we remember, everywhere we go, the memories we had together.”

Mahmoud Zibaie said his pain remains strong as well. On the day of the crash, the Toronto man was tracking the flight online. He took a video of the tracking technology to show to his 15-year-old daughter Maya, who was on the plane with his wife, Shahrzad Hashemi.

Minutes after takeoff, Zibaie went to make some tea. When he returned to his computer, the plane was gone from the screen and he quickly saw articles begin popping up on social media.

Zibaie said along with his grief, he experienced intense guilt as he was supposed to be on the plane as well but had some home early due to worry over taking too many days off from work.

“It's still very, very, very hard. The wound is fresh,” he said. “I believe it will take a long time to heal.”

Since the tragedy, Zibaie moved from Toronto to Ottawa, saying he wasn't able to stay in that city.

Morattab said he remains angry at Iran, calling the government “criminal.”

“We are talking about a crime. It's the murder of 176 beautiful souls,” he said.

Iran has admitted to shooting down the Boeing jet in error but the exact cause of the crash has not been established. Under the rules of international civil aviation, Iran is leading the investigation as it took place on its territory.

“It's a conflict of interest, someone who has done a crime can't investigate their own crime,” said Morattab.

He called Iran's offer to pay $150,000 USD to the families of victims “insulting.”

“What does that mean? We don't conduct an investigation, we pay you and we expect you to remain silent and the case is closed.”

He urged Canada to pressure the International Civil Aviation Organization to further condemn Iran's behaviour but said he believes the Canadian government has done much to support the families of victims.

“They have been very supportive of us since day one,” he said, pointing to the government designating Jan. 8 as a National Day of Remembrance for Air Disaster Victims.

Zibaie said he hopes to one day recover the personal belongings of his wife and daughter. So far, he said he's been only able to get his daughter's burned passport and wife's bank cards.

“That's all I got back. It hurts.” 

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