The family and friends of those killed after a plane crashed shortly after take-off in Iran have mixed reactions to the news that an Iranian missile is believed to be the cause.
All 176 passengers on Ukrainian Airlines Flight PS752 — including the 138 travellers who were headed to Canada — were killed when the plane hit the ground Wednesday morning just outside of Tehran.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canadian intelligence, along with intelligence from Canada’s allies, showed the plane was likely “shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.”
He clarified the motive for the incident is unknown: “This may well have been unintentional.”
Trudeau said his first thought upon learning the news of a possible missile strike was for the families of the victims, saying it would “undoubtedly come as a further shock to the families who are already grieving in the face of this unspeakable tragedy.”
For two friends of Alireza Pey, a 47-year-old Ottawa father of two daughters who died in the crash, the cause of the incident won’t change the end result.
“For me, it doesn’t matter,” Azadeh Ashoori told Global News. “The result is that Ali is gone. And the girls don’t have him anymore.”
“I have the same feelings. I don’t know what’s happened,” another friend, Maryam Kamkar, told Global News. “It could be anything that happened and it doesn’t change the outcome.
“Ali and so many lives were taken. And I hope the families receive the support that they deserve.“
Ali Salarian, 45, is originally from Bandar Abbass, Iran, and moved to Canada in 2008.
He didn’t personally know any of the victims, but he says the incident is a “tragic” loss for the Iranian community, and for the neighbourhood of Richmond Hill, where many Iranian-Canadians live.
Salarian also has connections to Iran Air Flight 655, which was shot down by the U.S. military on July 3, 1988.
He knew several of the passengers that were on board that flight as it had stopped in Bandar Abbass after originally departing from Tehran. It then flew over the Strait of Hormuz, where it was hit by two American surface-to-air missiles.
Salarian says “history has repeated itself” and he says the big mistake was not shutting Iranian airspace following the surface-to-surface missile attack on the Iraqi military bases.
It’s by mistake, it’s not deliberate that they did that, I believe that,” he said.
“When there is a conflict, flights shut down, that’s it. Don’t rely on the system because there can always be mistakes.”
Sonika Kainth, a friend of University of Toronto student Mohammad Asadi Lari, who died in the crash along with his sister, said she was trying to focus on Lari’s life rather than the cause of the tragedy.
“It’s definitely very sad, and all of us as Canadians and world citizens are looking for answers regarding what happened,” she said in a phone call. “For me at least, I’m focusing my next few days on celebrating Moh’s life and the impact he’s had on me.”
Kevin Manesh, a member of the Iranian community of Ottawa and a friend of crash victim Alireza Pey, stressed the need to know more information about the cause of the incident.
“Right now there is no proof of anything, and my suggestion is to leave the job for specialists or investigators,” Manesh told Global News on Thursday after Trudeau’s press conference. “For us to judge (what occurred) without any background, is not right.”
Manesh said within his community and social networks there is a sense of shock, devastation and chaos, as each person tries to make sense of the tragedy and emerging events in Iran.
“I’m just speaking for myself,” Manesh said. “But even on social media, in the community, everyone has their own opinion.”
Razgar Rahimi, Farideh Gholami and their three-year-old son Jiwan Rahimi died in the crash, Centennial College’s president announced Wednesday.
Rahimi came to Canada as a PhD student after a long wait for his student visa in 2014, according to his former graduate supervisor Shahram ShahbazPanahi, a professor in the department of electrical, computer and software engineering at Ontario Tech University, where Rahimi was a sessional instructor.
He remembers his former student as a shy but “good, dedicated, honest and ethical person” with “a brilliant mind.”
In Canada, Rahimi and his family became close with ShahbazPanahi’s family, in particular, the professor’s brother, Shaho, whose daughter was Jiwan’s playmate.
“My brother now has a three-year-old girl, and the girl is crying for her friend, which was their son killed in this crash,” ShahbazPanahi said.
“It’s devastating. I don’t know how to talk, how to help my family.”
Gholami, who had a degree in industrial and product design from a university in Iran and worked as a fashion designer, was also beloved by the community, he said. At a university memorial Thursday night, even the family’s landlord attended, according to ShahbazPanahi.
“They were telling us that Farideh was like our sister.”
Gholami was pregnant at the time of her death, ShahbazPanahi said. He told Global News he is considering starting a group named after the family with the goal of supporting international students.
For others in the Iranian-Canadian community, the news of a missile strike is frightening.
“It is scary. It is very scary,” said Reza Akbari, president of the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton.
“When I put myself in the shoes of the family, it’s a huge difference. It changes the whole scenario of who is responsible for this.
Akbari emphasized the heritage society has no political or religious affiliations and is focused on helping the families of the victims. That said, he stressed families, friends and all Canadians need to know what happened.
Trudeau has called for a full investigation into what happened. Canada doesn’t have an embassy in Iran, and there was some speculation on whether Canada would be part of the inquiry.
Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said he spoke to his counterpart in Iran and offered Canada’s help in the examination of the plane crash. He said the Italian embassy in Iran was helping Canada secure visas so investigators could get to the site of the crash.
Iran indicated in a statement posted on Thursday morning that it had invited Canadian officials to participate but did not specify in what capacity that could be.
The suspected missile strike came just hours after Iran launched missiles and hit Iraqi military bases that housed allied soldiers.
That attack was in response to a U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.
— With files from Kerri Breen, Beatrice Britneff, Brian Hill, Sam Thompson, Karen Bartko and Leslie Young