Grieving husband demands answers from Iran as anniversary of plane crash nears

Nearly one year after a Ukraine International Airlines passenger plane was shot down by the Iranian government, killing all 176 people on board, the Edmonton husband of one of the victims says family members are still waiting for answers.

Elnaz Nabiyi, a PhD student in the University of Alberta’s business program, was one of the 138 victims on board Flight PS752 with ties to Canada when it came down on Jan. 8, 2020. Her husband, Javad Soleimani, has since become a voice for family members left behind.

The last year has been unbelievably difficult, Soleimani told CBC Radio’s Edmonton AM.

“One thing [that] can actually kind of give the families of victims some relief is truth, knowing the truth,” Soleimani said. “But unfortunately, over the past year, the Iranian regime did not co-operate with the international community to conduct an impartial and credible investigation. So it made it very hard for us.”

In the days after Flight PS752 crashed, Iran denied its military was responsible for downing the plane. However, amid mounting evidence from Western intelligence, it eventually admitted that its military had mistakenly fired at the Ukrainian jet during a period of heightened tensions between Iran and the United States.

On Dec. 30, Iranian state television reported that the government would give a payout to crash victims’ families of $150,000 US for each victim.

Seeking clarity, justice rather than compensation 

Soleimani said that compensation is secondary. He would rather know the truth of who, exactly, was responsible for the downing of Flight PS752 and see them punished accordingly, he said.

“I think the Iranian regime is trying to use the compensation to stop the families of victims, to close the case, to just give compensation without satisfying families of victims in terms of truth and in terms of justice,” Soleimani said.

Soleimani, seen with his late wife, said one thing that could help the families of victims in the grieving process is ‘knowing the truth’ of what happened. (Submitted photo)

In June, family members of those on the flight formed the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims, which is pushing the Canadian government to pursue justice in court, in a setting such as the United Nations’ International Court of Justice.

Soleimani, who is active in the family association, said he hopes to see the Iranian government brought to justice in 2021, but he does not know if it will happen.

Without specific answers about what happened that day, Soleimani said he still hasn’t fully accepted that his wife is gone. He said he moved to a new home in October but kept all of Nabiyi’s clothes and shoes, just in case.

“I’m still kind of hopeful that she will be back home,” Soleimani said. “That she will call me and say, ‘Javed, I’m at the airport’ or ‘I’m behind the door — open the door.'”

The family association will hold a virtual memorial later this week to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the flight going down.

“It’s going to be a hard day, that day,” Soleimani said. “As I get closer to that day, it is getting harder and harder.”

With files from Kory Siegers

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