More than a dozen Iranian-Canadians rallied in front of the Manitoba Legislature Sunday to call for justice after Ukraine International Airline’s flight 752 was shot down over Tehran, Iran, earlier this month, killing all 176 passengers, including 57 Canadians.
Nine of those 57 Canadian victims were Winnipeggers.
The protesters called for the people responsible and the Iranian government to be held to account for the deaths.
They also called for federal leaders to keep the pressure on the Iranian government during the investigation — the Iranian government admitted to launching a surface-to-air missile at the civilian plane, but has said it was “unintentional” and was caused by “human error.”
Organizer Saeideh Mirzaei — an international student who came to Winnipeg to study civil engineering at the University of Manitoba in 2016 — saw friends die in the tragedy.
“I might have been on that flight, there’s no difference. I’m not afraid anymore to tell the truth, to stand beside people,” Mirzaei said. “We have to stop this killing machine.”
Her friends Bahareh Haj Esfandiari, Mehdi Sadeghi and their 10-year-old daughter, Anisa Sadeghi, died in the crash when they were trying to return home to Winnipeg after the holidays.
“I owe it to her to [not] stay quiet and convey their message of innocence,” Mirzaei told reporters.
“I’m not a permanent [Canadian] resident but I’m applying. … Something might happen to me if I go back home, but it’s good you have my video and my face. If something happened to me, you know I’m not advocating war, I’m just telling truth. I’m not afraid. Even if I die, I don’t care because I don’t deserve to live longer than a 10-year-old kid.”
Despite small numbers — just 16 people — the protest was loud with cries for answers.
“The reason you don’t see many people here today is because many people are afraid to show their faces, to speak, even when they’re outside of Iran because they’re afraid for themselves if they go back,” said protester Anahita Aminian.
Aminian is grateful for what the Canadian government and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have done since the crash, she said.
“But the families would like to have more answers, and for this tragedy not be repeated again,” she said.
The tight-knit Winnipeg Iranian community has seen mixed emotions since the crash on Jan. 8, Aminian said.
“Painful sadness and anger, disbelief, shock and shame that the government would kill its own people. Not feeling guilty about it, but ashamed,” she said.
She knew six people who died in the crash.
“What I remember is the conversations I had with them, the hope in their voices, the struggles they were facing as immigrants or international students,” said Aminian, who moved to Canada from Iran 30 years ago.
Sunday, however, was about justice.
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