About 100 Ann Arbor and University of Michigan community members gathered on the Diag Sunday afternoon to mourn the 176 people killed when Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile fired by the Islamic Republic of Iran three years ago, on Jan. 8, 2020. Islamic Republic of Iran did not take responsibility for the death of those in the airplane following the incident. The Diag was adorned with various tributes to the victims, including posters, photos of the victims and candles. Some of the posters read “Women. Life. Freedom.” and “Justice for Iran.”
The protest, which was hosted by The Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims, an organization devoted to justice, community, awareness and memorial of the victims, began with the playing of the Imperial Anthem of Iran as attendees waved the national flag. Aida Mouzoon, LSA senior and president of the University of Michigan Persian Student Alliance, explained that the purpose of the protest was to come together on the anniversary of the crash and consider the present day regime.
“Today, we’re here gathered to commemorate the third anniversary of the striking of flight PS752 by the hands of the Islamic Regime,” Mouzoon said.
Iranian citizens have been engaged in a series of ongoing protests against the regime and the nation’s strict morality police since September. National protests call for freedom and an end to the oppressive theocracy have echoed across The University campus. In November, the campus community came together to protest the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini — who was arrested and killed by the morality police in September for not wearing her hijab correctly.
On Sunday, protesters gathered across the world to mourn the anniversary of the crash and the lack of justice for the victims. Outside of Ann Arbor, there were protests in Washington, D.C., Turkey, Germany and several other countries. The PS752 tragedy is another example of the regime’s disregard for human rights, Iman Harsini, event organizer and administrator for The Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims, said to the crowd.
“On the dawn of Jan. 8, 2020, only a few hours after (Iran) launched rocket attacks on the seemingly empty American military base in Iraq, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards corps murdered 176 innocent passengers and an unborn child aboard Ukrainian flight PS752,” Harsini said. “At least two missiles were fired at the passenger aircraft. The plane crashed three minutes and 42 seconds after the first (missile) struck it, bringing unimaginable terror and suffering to the passengers and crew during those dark moments.”
Harsini said Iranian state media claimed responsibility for the attack on the U.S. military base, but never took accountability for the plane crash even though they initiated both attacks on the same day.
“Shortly before the attack, (missiles) were stationed near the airport that were used to shoot down the airplane,” Harsini said. “The (Islamic Republic of Iran) knew what they had done. State media was boasting about their attacks on the American military base without any mention of their crime.”
On Dec. 28 Harsini called for justice for the victims of the crash in a video and said The Association of Families pushed foreign governments such as the United Kingdom to take the Islamic Republic of Iran to the International Court of Justice — a judicial body operating under the United Nations and sometimes referred to as the World Court. The U.K. and other governments have not formally responded as of Jan. 8.
Harsini said The Association of Families will not allow the experience of the victims to be forgotten.
“There was 20 seconds between the first and second missile strike,” Harsini said. “Let’s take 20 seconds (to) stay silent.”
The Imperial Anthem of Iran played for a second time throughout the Diag during the moment of silence. Several of the protestors laid on the ground, holding pictures of the victims of the PS752 crash to their chest. Later, the protestors placed their photos on the ground to form a collage in the shape of Iran.
The organizers then began leading chants, alternating between English and Farsi.
“Women. Life. Freedom,” the crowd chanted. “Zan. Zendegi. Azadi.”
“What do we want?” asked the organizers. “Freedom for Iran,” the protestors responded.
The protestors then began to march towards the Engineering Arch on the southeast side of the Diag and took a loop around South University Avenue. As they marched, they informed the crowd of ways they can contact their representatives to help Iran.
Iman Harsini is a Michigan resident and administrator for The Association of Families. He explained that the downing of this flight is one of many examples of abuses by the Islamic Republic.
“We are here today to commemorate that horrendous day, and support the association of the victims’ families,” Harsini said. “Their message resonates with the Iranian Revolution and the flight downing is another link in the chain of the Islamic Republic’s 43 years of corruption and murder. So we are to support the Iranian Revolution.”
Mouzoon, who helped organize the protest, said the U-M Persian Student Association, the U-M Iranian Grad Student Association and the Ann Arbor and Metro Detroit Iranian community came together to make the event a success. Mouzoon went on to explain the importance of having events like this on campus, emphasizing that they promote inclusivity and international activism on campus.
“It’s important to have events like this, especially aligning with the University’s values as a campus to promote inclusivity, and what’s going on in world events, especially to serve … less recognized communities on campus,” Mouzoon said. “We’ve had overwhelming support, and luckily so.”
LSA and Music, Theatre & Dance freshman Isabella Ashtari told The Michigan Daily she attended the event to mourn the victims of flight PS752 and to show support for those suffering under the oppressive Iranian regime.
“I came here because, not only are we mourning the losses from this event, but there’s just so many losses that Iranians have been facing for what now feels like the longest time,” Ashtari said. “I have been continuing to come to protests because as someone that’s in America right now that’s what I can do.”
LSA freshman Perry Petramfar also attended the event. She moved to the U.S. from Iran and said she feels a sense of duty to attend events that support the Iranian people.
“I moved to the United States six years ago, so I was born in Iran and I feel more connected to Iran and I feel like I am responsible,” Petramfar said. “These people put their lives out there. They were killed brutally and it is my job to be here just to be part of this.”
Ashtari explained how U-M students can show their support for Iran, especially because Iranian citizens do not have the same freedom of expression in their home country.
“Showing up to protests is always extremely helpful,” Ashtari said. “In Iran, they literally can’t post about it, their social media is turned off. So we need to use our voices here to increase awareness just because so many people here (in the United States) don’t know what’s going on.”
Daily News Reporter Miles Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.