“It’s not safe at all”: Iran harasses families of plane crash victims, sources say

They have been told not to talk to the media, keep their duel as private as possible and even publicly praise the regime that mistakenly shot down the plane of their loved ones.

The families of the victims of the Iranian plane crash, most of them Canadian or headed to Canada, are still mourning their relatives.

But that has not prevented Tehran from closely monitoring and harassing families living in the country, using the release of the victims’ remains as an influence, several sources allege.

A mother received a visit from security officers after she openly asked for help from Canada and a video of his outburst It went viral, says an Iranian journalist based in the United States.

Another family had to welcome government ministers to their private grieving ceremony, said an Iranian-Canadian informed about his situation.

“They know anger, they know they are furious,” said Masih Alinejad, a widely followed Iranian journalist based in New York. “They know that if these families went out in public and shared their pain and blamed the Islamic Republic, the whole society in Iran would unite against the Islamic Republic.” They are afraid of that. “

Most of the reports could not be independently verified by the National Post, but the details are similar to each other and aspects of a case are documented on video.

The federal government, which has consular officials in Iran trying to reunite with families, is aware of the alleged abuse, said John Babcock, spokesman for Chancellor François-Philippe Champagne. The government is especially concerned that the victims’ remains may return to this country, he said.

Supporters and relatives of the victims of the Boeing 737-800 plane crash, flight PS 752, light candles as they gather to show their sympathy in Tehran, Iran, on January 11, 2020.

Nazanin Tabatabaee / West Asia News Agency through Reuters

“Canada is deeply concerned about reports from the Iranian authorities that pressure Iranian-Canadians not to repatriate the remains to Canada,” said Babcock. “The Iranian government must respect the will of families when it comes to the repatriation of bodies: this is a message that the Foreign Minister has transmitted directly to his Iranian counterpart.”

They know anger

Canada will also emphasize the issue at a meeting of the “international coordination and response group” for victims of Ukraine International Airlines flight PS752 in London on Thursday, Babcock said.

After initially denying any guilt, Iran admitted that it shot down the plane with anti-aircraft missiles last Wednesday. Of the 176 victims, 57 were Canadian citizens and 81 more went to this country, many of whom continued post-secondary studies after the Christmas holidays.

An Iranian family of Canadian victims arrived at a government office to provide a DNA sample as part of the process to reclaim the remains and were taken to a separate room by security agents, says an Ontario-based Canadian Canadian informed by a friend close to the family. .

“They said that if they discuss with any other means, especially external media … they will not get the body or the process will be delayed or face the consequences,” said the person, who asked not to be identified to avoid family repercussions in Iran. “The consequences … may mean sending them to jail.”

The person said officials told the family that they should not invite many people to the grieving ceremony at home, and that two government representatives would attend “to make sure everything is happening according to our scenario.”

Victim of the Amir Hossein Saeedinia accident.


Amir Hossein Saeedinia’s mother, a PhD student in engineering from the University of Alberta, did not keep her grief so private. In a video posted online by Alinejad, you can hear the woman on a sidewalk in Karaj, Iran, shouting “come to our aid”, and then mention Canada.

“I am a disconsolate mother,” he says, according to Alinejad’s translation. “My son was no longer Iranian. My son was Canadian. His father said he should go and get away from here, go to a safe place. “

Alinejad says the video, posted to its three million followers on Instagram, went viral.

Then, a relative told the journalist, the authorities arrived at the parents’ house and ordered them to shut up. A few days later, a television network linked to the government broadcast a interview with Saeedinia’s father.

He said his son always wanted to return to Iran after finishing his Canadian studies, and asked “how can we not pay attention to the words of the great supreme leader of Iran?”

The father was forced to comment, Alinejad accuses.

They threaten people to remain silent

Hamid Mo, an Iranian-Canadian businessman in Toronto, said friends of other victim families in Iran told him they had been ordered not to speak with outside journalists.

“They threaten people to keep quiet and not do much of the situation,” he said. “Twenty, 30 years ago, they could have covered everything without anyone knowing. But now with the media and cell phones and everyone recording things, they can’t stop people from that. “

A report on IranWire.com, a news website run by Iranian expatriate journalists, quotes the unidentified mother of another victim saying she had been threatened by security agents, and asked “several times” to give positive media interviews. Nationals

Meanwhile, some Canadians refused to talk about what is happening in Iran, worried about bringing more problems to families there.

“I am very afraid,” said one. “I know in fact that they are being watched and it is not safe at all.”

A prominent Iranian-Canadian businessman, Halifax businessman Farhad Raeisi, said he had not yet heard any reports of family bullying in Iran.


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