In a rally in Toronto to mark the third anniversary of an airliner disaster, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lambasted the Islamic Republic, saying it disregards human life.
People around the world held gatherings Sunday to pay respects to the victims of a Ukrainian airliner shot down by Iran’s military as it took off from Tehran on January 8, 2020..
Iranian diaspora communities held rallies outside the Islamic Republic’s embassies and in many cities, chanting slogans against human rights violations by the clerical regime in Iran.
Following the downing of flight PS 752 on January 8, 2020, the Islamic Republic tried to deny the incident for a few days before it was forced to admit that an air defense unit had fired two missiles at the airliner over Tehran.
The rallies were also held to express solidarity with those in Iran who have been protesting and holding strikes for over 110 days since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was killed in hijab police custody, an event that triggered the unprecedented unrest.
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hugs Tourane Shamsolahi, the relative of victims, at an event marking the third anniversary of the downing of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada January 8, 2023.
The gatherings started early Sunday in in Australia and New Zealand, continued in several cities in Asia and Europe and finally in many cities in Canada and the United States. Speeches and artistic performances took place at some of the events.
Rallies in Canada and the United States were among the biggest gatherings. Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly participated in the event in Toronto and delivered speeches in honor of the victims and against the Islamic Republic’s human rights violations.
"The Flight PS752 tragedy happened because of the Iranian regime's heinous disregard for human life... The Islamic Republic does not represent people of Iran who deserve so much better," Trudeau said. He noted that "finding justice" is a crucial part of mourning, adding that "Your grief has been compounded by their refusal to be held accountable."
He said Canada has "permanently and forever" banned leaders from Iran from taking safe haven in the country. "We will continue to stand and look for even more to do to ensure that this brutal, murderous regime is held fully to account."
He also touched upon the ongoing antigovernment protests in Iran, saying, “The killing of Mahsa Amini shocked not only those in Iran but also the entire world.” He added that Canada stands by and supports the women of Iran, before concluding his speech by chanting the Iranian uprising's moto "Women, Life, Liberty" in Persian.
"The Islamic Republic is not representative and is not indicative of the extraordinary, wonderful, warm, beautiful people of Iran who deserve so much better," said Trudeau.
Vowing to keep up the efforts until the Islamic Republic is held accountable for the tragic incident, Joly said, "We will get the best lawyers to make sure that the Iranian regime will be held accountable at the international court of justice."
Hamed Esmaeilion, the Canada-based activist whose daughter and wife were killed in the incident and serves as the spokesman for the families of Iranian victims of the flight PS752, also delivered a speech during the event. He called on the Ottawa government to expel Farhad Parvaresh, the Islamic Republic's envoy to ICAO -- the UN's specialized agency for civil aviation headquartered in Montreal.
He also renewed calls on the Canadian government to list the entirety of the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) as a terrorist organization, and identify and remove from Canada the "oligarchs and operatives" of the Islamic Republic. "The world must understand that they have no place in the international community and most importantly they do not represent the great people of Iran," he said.
"We have no other option. From Day 1 we've been focused on finding the truth and seeking justice, and we're not going to give up,” Esmaeilion said.
Iranian protesters in London on January 8, 2023
In Iran, the families of victims of the airliner gathered Sunday at the site of the crash, in Shahriar, southwest of the capital Tehran, while others protested at cemeteries in other cities including Saqqez in Kordestan Province, the Kurdish city of Mahahbad in West Azarbaijan province, and Bandar Anzali in the north to mark the anniversary of the tragedy.
The airliner was shot down by two air-defense missiles fired by the IRGC as it took off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport. Hours earlier, the IRGC had fired more than a dozen missiles at Iraqi bases hosting US troops in retaliation for the killing of the IRGC Quds Force Commander Ghasem Soleimani who was targeted by a US drone strike just five days earlier. All 176 passengers and crew, including 63 Canadians and 10 from Sweden, as well as 82 Iranian citizens on the plane died in the disaster.
Iranian protesters in London on January 8, 2023