Hamed Esmaeeilion, an Iranian-Canadian who works as a dentist in Toronto, has spent the past year grappling with the tragic deaths of his wife Parisa, 42, and daughter Reera, 9, in the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 on January 8, 2020, outside Tehran.
Radio Farda: On the eve of the anniversary of the tragedy, the Iranian authorities have reached the victims' families to offer them compensation; have they contacted you, as well?
Hamed Esmaeelioun: They did not contact me at all. They better know the consequences if they call me, but this is also part of their plan. They have already over-pressured families more than enough. A metal will break after bending and straightening it twenty times, let alone the human mind, soul, and body that are very vulnerable. Imagine being under pressure for a year. Imagine being told lies upon lies. Imagine that the government decides about your loved ones' funeral and burial. At the victims' memorial, they exerted pressure. The victims' relatives felt being watched round the clock, their telephones tapped and monitored. It meant continually living under permanent fear and unending stress.
Of course, I am talking about the victims' families in Iran. The ones outside of Iran have also been under pressure, but not as much as the ones in Iran. They push the families into a quandary. Disguised as good cops, they (intelligence agents) come to your home, saying that their mission is condoling you and settling all disputes. Fortunately, all the victims' relatives are familiar with such tactics.
In a nutshell, their aim is sowing seeds of division among the victims' families. "Divide and rule" is their motto.
Radio Farda: What do you want to do with the process you described?
Esmaeelioun: We first registered the [Victims'] Family Association, a non-governmental organization in Canada. Then many families came forward and formed a large community. Our activities from the first days, even before the formation of the Association, were internet campaigns. We have had three internet campaigns with at least two hundred thousand signatories. We have met with the authorities, mostly Canadians. We have also met with the Ukrainian officials and even (The International Civil Aviation Organization). We still have regular correspondence with them.
Being the Association's spokesperson, I might be under the spotlight, but others might be even working harder than me. In the past months, we produced two investigative documentaries and numerous memorial videos.
We are active in all virtual networks and have launched various campaigns to release those detained for lighting candles to commemorate the victims. Recently, we launched the "I will also light a candle" campaign. Day and night, our lives are dedicated to this issue, and we think about nothing else.
Radio Farda: What has Hamed Esmaeelioun become a year after the tragedy? How the tragedy changed Hamed Esmaeelioun?
Esmaeelioun: It has been the continuation of my life with a different character, another person I no longer know. I have not yet contemplated on what has happened to me after a year. But this new character is not the same man it used to be. As a survivor, I wrote about myself not necessarily a writer, that one's feelings and emotions, as psychiatrists say, become superficial, and everything goes to an inaccessible depth. There is something inside you that you cannot find, but it is horrifying when you see it, and it is the fear of facing the past.
For a person like me, there is nothing but the past. When you talk about life, you say I was a happy person. I had the best life, and I was next to the people I loved dearly. Suddenly, a storm roars in and takes everything away, and you are standing at the heart of the cyclone. Then, the storm subsides, but you have to find yourself and see where you are.
I think it's still too early after a year to see who I am. If one survives, maybe after five or ten years, they will talk about it better. But, in this fast process, where there are new developments every day, one can hardly find time to pause and find themselves.
Radio Farda: Iran has announced that it will publish a report on the plane's downing on its anniversary; what do you think about this report?
Esmaeelioun: The report promised is a draft because the final report must first be made available to the three countries of Ukraine, France, and the United States. They have two months to comment on it, and then Iran will publish it. This means that the final report will probably be published at the end of March, but Iran is obliged to deliver a draft report on the anniversary and present its findings to date.
However, we do not recognize any of these reports. Following the way they treated our loved ones and us and based on Iran's record, we, the victims' families, are sure that there will be nothing new in these reports. I believe that other countries have also reached the same conclusion.
Nobody is interested to know what 'new lies' will be in Iran's report. They are legally obliged to present their account, and I believe it would be useless and merely adds to the people's anger and frustration.
Radio Farda: Is there anything more you need to say on the eve of the anniversary?
Esmaeelioun: I would like to stress that Iran does not understand the language of diplomacy. We have tried to relay this to the parties involved in the tragedy, and, I believe, Iran's behavior has already proved this to others. I think the case will go where it should go in the second year, and that is the International Court of Justice in The Hague.