Habib Haghjoo addressed a completely full Imam Mahdi Islamic Centre in Markham on Sunday morning, as the bodies of his daughter and granddaughter lay in caskets in front of his podium.
The remains of Sahar Haghjoo, 37, and her eight-year-old daughter, Elsa Jadidi were returned to Toronto on Saturday from Iran, where they were killed when Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 was shot down by Iranian missiles on Jan. 8.
“I hope nothing like that happens again, not even to my worst enemy — because this is unbearable,” said Haghjoo through tears.
“I hope this never happens to anyone.”
The remains of the Canadian-based mother and daughter were identified at the crash site last weekend, but the Haghjoo family had to battle the Iranian government to have the bodies returned and buried on Canadian soil — before the Persian country finally gave in.
“I’m proud of those flags,” said Habib Haghjoo, pointing to the Canadian flag draped over both caskets.
“I just want to thank you, everyone, from the bottom of my heart,” said Habib, referring to the packed prayer hall — filled with dozens of friends, family and community members, leaving standing room only inside the mosque.
“I want to kiss everybody’s hand, that means a lot to me.”
After the traditional funeral services, many of the mourners approached the caskets to say a more personal prayer over the bodies of the mother and daughter.
Several young girls, roughly Elsa’s age, put their palms and foreheads against one of the caskets and cried openly for their lost friend.
“I think it speaks to the strength of the Canadian community, ” said Tahereh Garshasb, who was Sahar’s friend for about 25 years.
“We had people from different religions here, we had people from different faiths and different cultures. We saw that people were praying in different ways.”
She adds that Sahar and her daughter attended the local masjid regularly and were both very active within the community.
“Sahar was very generous, very sympathetic, an excellent mother, an excellent community member, really a pride for Canada,” said Garshasb.
The 37-year-old mother, and one of four daughters to Habib, was also an experienced broadcaster on an English language show in Iran but spent much of her life in the Greater Toronto Area.
She also worked at the Young Women’s Christian Association, where she ran a program to help settle immigrant and refugee women in Canada
“I miss them deeply in my heart,” said Sahar’s friend, Sara Sadeghzadeh.
“They were so happy, I miss them and this world will really miss them, because they were so active, so lovely, so kind.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford was also in attendance, sitting in the front row during the service.
“Our heart is broken, not just our family, everyone in Ontario,” said Ford.
“When a crisis happens, we unite together. No matter what race, what religion you come from, we are all Ontario residents.”
After the service at the Islamic Centre, the caskets were loaded onto hearses and taken to the Eglin Mills Cemetary for the burial ceremony.