‘We try to be their voice’: Families of Iran plane crash victims searching for answers on anniversary

WINNIPEG — It’s been one year since a plane carrying dozens of Canadians was shot down in Iran shortly after take off.

All 176 people on board were killed, including nine Manitobans.

“It’s been difficult, to say the least, to try and still wrap our heads around it,” said Negysa Kalar, whose aunt and 11-year-old cousin were killed in the crash. 

“It’s been hard especially with the pandemic not being able to be with family around those big times.”

Winnipeg’s Farzaneh Naderi and Noojan Sadr were on Ukrainian International Airlines Flight 752 as it left Tehran’s international airport in January 2020. The plane was shot down shortly after taking off by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

Now, a year later, Kalar is holding memories of her aunt and cousin close.

“She would always be the first one on the dance floor and the last one to leave, and the food she would make was epic. No one could top the way she made Persian food,” said Kalar. 

“I’m an only child and so was Noojan, so we really connected on that way, you know, we were like brother and sister.”

Kourosh Doustshenas’ fiancee Forough Khadem was also killed that day.

“We were thinking of getting married last June, and we were preparing to buy a new home together, and basically having lots of plans for our future together,” said Doustshenas.

Khadem was an accomplished scientist who studied at the University of Manitoba. She made an important discovery about a deadly parasitic disease. 

Doustshenas along with Khadem’s family have donated $100,000 towards a scholarship in her name.

Mitacs, a company Khadem worked for, has also contributed to the fund.

“The scholarship has been created, not just in her honour, but also to do what she herself did,” said Mitacs CEO John Hepburn.

“In other words, she was a woman who came to Canada to study in a STEM area, and then to contribute to Canada, and we would like to support that.”

Hepburn said Khadem was a well-loved employee. 

Doustshenas has started an association for the families of victims who are still searching for answers and justice, and working to ensure those responsible are held accountable. 

“We are still advocating on their behalf. We try to be their voice, and we work very hard with the governmental and non-governmental agencies in Canada and around the world to make sure this will not be forgotten,” said Doustshenas.

A virtual vigil for the victims was held Friday night by the University of Manitoba Iranian Students’ Association.  

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