Families of Flight PS752 victims grieve loved ones who ‘had a story, had a family, had a life’

Families of Flight PS752 victims grieve loved ones who 'had a story, had a family, had a life' thumbnail

If Rehana Dhirani was having a bad day, she’d call her father, Ali. He’d hear her voice and immediately know something was wrong.

“He would say the right things to lift my spirits, and say the right things to make me feel better and encourage me to see the positive in everything,” she said.

But Dhirani hasn’t been able to hear those words of encouragement since she lost her father three years ago. Ali Asgar Dhirani was 74 years old when he died on Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, along with 175 others.

The flight, destined for Kyiv, Ukraine, took off on Jan. 8, 2020 from Tehran and was shot down by Iranian missiles. The majority of the flight, 138 people, were Canadian citizens, residents, students or visitors and were heading to Canada via Ukraine.

In the three years since the flight’s downing, families of the victims have shared the endless grief and pain they have endured since their loved ones were killed.

The victims included entire families, children, newlyweds and those returning from holiday.

Dhirani, who lives in Mississauga, Ont., told CTV News Toronto Sunday that the week leading up to the crash anniversary has been difficult.

“It’s missing such a rock that our family had, a man that just exhibited joy and happiness,” she said. “It’s been very hard for my mom, my brother and I this week.”

She wants people to remember her father as someone who’d always be there for others, was incredibly positive and “gave the best advice.” Her kids say their grandfather showed them the funniest videos.

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Her father, and every victim who was killed “had a story, had a family, had a life, and had a loved one that misses them dearly,” she said.

There’s a reason the victims chose Canada to build their lives—they are also part of Canadian society, and “left an impact that is deep and hard to fill,” she said.

Her father was her “best friend,” she added. But she also wants Canadians to remember the children specifically who died, who did not get to start their lives.

One of those children was Shahin Moghaddam’s 10-year-old son. Moghaddam lost both his wife and his young boy in the tragedy, and has been calling for justice ever since.

He told CTV News Channel on Sunday that he wasn’t sure how to describe how he felt on the three-year anniversary of the plane being shot down.

“It’s hard, desperate, alone, confused – and pain. Lots of pain,” he said.

Moghaddam has been fighting for more to be done for three years, and said that while he saw many people applauding Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s appearance at a memorial event in Toronto, he still feels the Canadian government has failed to provide a clear answer on whether or not it believes the plane was shot down by accident or on purpose.

“I’m confused about the double standards of my own country, the Canadian side,” he said. “I have a single, simple question [for] the prime minister: do you believe that shooting down the plane was a premeditated and intentional act, or no?” 


Rallies are being held across the country Sunday to mark the anniversary and also to urge Ottawa to take a tougher stance against Iran.

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Ottawa had previously held off on joining other nations in starting the process of sending the Flight PS752 case to the International Court of Justice and compel Iran to compensate victims.

But on Dec. 28 Ottawa decided to join, as negotiations between Canada and Iran over reparations came to a standstill.

Iran has also shifted how it has addressed the downing of the airliner. On Jan. 11, 2020, the Iranian government admitted they shot down the commercial plane, stating they mistook it for an American cruise missile. However, they later claimed that the aircraft was suspicious, which is disputed by the findings of an investigation by the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Trudeau, speaking at a memorial on Sunday, said that Canada will be taking the next steps to bring the Iranian regime to court if they fail to comply within six months, reiterating that Iran’s “refusal to be held accountable” will no longer be tolerated.

But although Trudeau’s speech was greeted with applause on Sunday, some say the government’s actions still aren’t going far enough.

“They could do much better than this,” Moghaddam said.

He said that bringing Iran to the International Court of Justice won’t provide real justice for families, adding that this process would focus on Iran’s culpability as a country, rather than highlighting individuals and finding out who actually caused the missiles to be fired.

“We are not looking for compensation,” Moghaddam said. “We want to see them in criminal court.”

He added that it was “unacceptable” that families weren’t going to get answers on who was responsible and why it happened.  

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Hamed Esmaeilion, head of the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims, who lost his wife and daughter in the crash, told the Canadian Press Saturday that while he’s glad Canada has placed sanctions on some Iranian individuals and entities, there are more connected to the downing of the flight who have not faced consequences.

He said Iran needs to face clear pushback from Canada, and Iranian officials should not be able to move freely in Canada.

“This senseless, merciless crime that they committed took all of them from us,” he said.

With files from CTV News Toronto and The Canadian Press

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