Documentary charts one man's quest for justice in Iran’s downing of Flight PS752

Hamed Esmaeilion lost his wife and daughter when Iran shot down the Ukraine International Airlines flight

Mourners attend an outdoor vigil for the victims of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752, shot down two years ago over Iran, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Reuters
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More than two years have passed since Iran shot down Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 three minutes after take-off in Tehran, killing all 176 passengers and crew members on board.

Hamed Esmaeilion, an Iranian-born Canadian dentist, has barely given himself a moment to mourn his wife Parisa and their 9-year-old daughter Reera. Instead, he has spent the past two and a half years working to hold Iran responsible.

The poster for 752 Is Not a Number at the Toronto International Film Festival. Photo: TIFF

Iran originally denied any involvement in the downing of the plane before eventually admitting the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps had shot it down by “mistake”.

752 Is not A Number, a new documentary film by Iranian-Canadian filmmaker Babak Payami, follows Mr Esmaeilion on his quest for justice.

During Mr Esmaeilion's journey, edited down to 90 gut-wrenching minutes, we see the pain and anguish of a father battling to keep the victims of PS752 in the public consciousness and trying in vain to convince the Canadian government to pursue legal action against Iran.

While a preliminary investigation by the Canadian government found “that a series of acts and omissions by Iranian civil and military authorities caused a dangerous situation”, authorities have been hesitant to take legal action.

The film follows Mr Esmaeilion as he travels to Kyiv, Ukraine, to meet investigators who are building a case against Iran. But, right as headway was being made, Russia invaded the country, all but ending Mr Esmaeilion’s hopes that some sort of justice would be achieved.

“War broke out just when we were getting somewhere,” Mr Esmaeilion says in the film as he stares at his computer screen with tired eyes.

“It is not morally right for us to push a country that has lost thousands to prioritise our case for 177 victims.”

But he remains defiant, determined to honour his wife and daughter and all the other victims, with his final line in the film being: “I won’t give up.”

Mr Esmaeilion, who has been harassed on social media and in person for speaking out against the government of Iran, hopes the film, which he plans on showing across Canada, will help to keep the public aware of PS752.

“What I believe is that, when you face injustice, you should not be silent,” he told The National.

“I think if I can convey this message to all the people who are watching this, I will be successful.”

On Wednesday, the families of victims of PS752 filed a submission to the International Criminal Court, asking it to investigate the case as a war crime and a crime against humanity.

Updated: September 15, 2022, 8:41 PM