Iranians in Dunedin remember tragic downing of plane

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied

By Abbas Alizadeh and Ali Mostolizadeh

A year is passed since 8 January 2020 when the shocking news of downing the Ukrainian International flight PS752 by two military missiles provoked grief, anger, and hopelessness into the hearts of Iranians around the world.

All 176 passengers and crew members of this flight were killed.

The majority of passengers were Iranian students or Iranian dual citizens who were living outside Iran.  

Debris of the Ukraine International Airlines, flight PS752, Boeing 737-800 plane that was shot...
Debris of the Ukraine International Airlines, flight PS752, Boeing 737-800 plane that was shot down after take-off from Iran's Imam Khomeini airport, on the outskirts of Tehran. Photo: Reuters
After three days of denial, Iranian authorities finally admitted that the military had shot down the Ukrainian airliner, having mistaken it for a cruise missile.

However, their ‘human-error’ scenario has been challenged not only by the families of the victims but by all of those whose questions have remained unanswered a year after the downing. 

On the anniversary of this tragedy some members of the Iranian community in Dunedin organised a memorial to share their grief and show support and sympathy with the families of the victims.

The event took place in the Business School of the University of Otago on Saturday, 9 January 2021.

A number of passengers on board were reportedly students and university staff returning to their schools outside Iran, mostly in Canada, after the end of holiday season.

For example, 10 of the 176 passengers were belonged to the University of Alberta and 8 to the University of Toronto.

The Memorial event at the University of Otago was held in collaboration with Iranian associations of five Universities across Canada including McGill, University of Toronto, Calgary, British Columbia, and Queens.

As part of the event, the Canadian online event was live streamed for the audience in Dunedin.

The event also included reciting poetry of poets from different nationalities in loving memory of those who lost their lives in this flight.

According to Ukraine's Foreign Minister, 82 Iranians and 63 Canadians were on board the Flight PS752. There were also 11 victims - including nine crew members - from Ukraine, four Britons three Germans, and four Afghans. A short film, honoring the victims of the flight, concluded the first part of the event.

At the closing part of the event, the participants lit candles in memory of the 176 victims Flight PS752 tragedy.

The candle lighting took place at Dunedin Botanic Garden next to a tree donated to "Pouya Bakhtiari" who is known as the face of the 2019 nationwide protests in Iran.

As of last November, when this tree was planted at the Botanic Garden, this corner close to the southern gate of the Garden has become a place for the Iranian community to gather around on different occasions. 

The memorial sought to keep the memories of the victims of the Flight PS752 alive and support their families in seeking justice for the murder of the innocent passengers. 

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