Dr. Mohsen Asadi Lari and Dr. Zahra Majd, the parents of two victims of the Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) plane shot down in January 2020 by the Islamic Republic Guard Corps (IRGC), have said that IRGC Commander-in-Chief Hossein Salami told them in person that the intention was to prevent a war with the US at a time of rising tensions. 

Speaking in an interview with state-run newspaper Sharq on January 10, they said, “If this downing had not taken place, 10 million people would have been killed, and this incident prevented this war from happening.” 

They claimed that the IRGC had, in effect, used the downing of UIA Flight Number 752 as a diversionary tactic:

We believe they hit the plane as a human shield

The couple lost two children, Zeinab and Mohammad Hussein, in the tragedy. The Ukrainian plane was shot out of the air just hours after the IRGC had fired numerous missiles at Iraqi military bases that housed US troops. 


Iran’s missile attack on the Iraqi bases was said to have been in retaliation for the US drone attack that killed IRGC Major General Qassem Soleimani just days earlier, on January 3, 2020. 

Speaking in the interview they said they’d met with some government officials, including Deputy Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri, whom they already knew. Apparently, he was the one who urged the family to meet with Salami.

Earlier, the Association of Families of Victims of Ukraine Flight 752 wrote in an investigative report that evidence points to the downing of the plane by the IRGC being "deliberate and aimed at creating a human shield to prevent a US attack." 

According to the report, the downing of the plane, as it took off from Tehran Airport, was not the result of human error or the anti-aircraft system, as claimed by Iran. Instead, the plane, which was carrying 176 passengers and crew, was used to provide a tragedy to blame on the US. 

"We should not look at the downing of the Ukrainian plane as a unique incident of that day and hour,” said Dr. Majd.  “This current had been formed in a chain following the events of the previous three-to-four days, and it was created in advance and intensified by the attack on Ayn al-Assad [air base], and then this current continued. That means all these issues need to be considered together," she added.


“At the security gate of the flight at Tehran Airport, which is controlled by the Revolutionary Guards, some passengers were asked if they had an American passport," said the Association of Families of the Victims. "This could indicate that the Revolutionary Guards wanted to make sure that no American citizens were on the plane." 

Furthermore, based on recollections of the last conversations before the flight, some families reported seeing some passengers getting off the plane before its departure. This has sparked speculation that the Iranian regime was afraid of retaliation if American citizens of Iranian descent were killed in the crash. 

Ukrainian corroboration?

According to Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, the Iranian couple’s claims may be true. Last year in April 2021, he told Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper that the IRGC "deliberately" shot down the passenger plane to prevent a military confrontation with the United States. 


A Canadian court has also ruled that the plane was downed intentionally and awarded the families of the Canadian victims $107 million in damages. The Association of the Families of the Victims of Flight 752 issued a statement on September 29, 2021 saying that only a "neutral international tribunal" could have jurisdiction over the "mass murder." 

On January 6, 2022, The International Coordination and Response Group for the victims of Flight PS75, which is composed of ministers representing Canada, Sweden, Ukraine and the United Kingdom, issued a joint statement mourning the “innocent passengers and crew” who lost their lives when “the Iranian military fired two surface-to-air missiles and destroyed Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 near Tehran.” 

On January 9th of this year, Iranian families of the victims of Flight 792 gathered at the crash site in Shahedshah to pay tribute to their loved ones. They pledged to continue their efforts to sue the perpetrators.


Hamid Enayat (@h_enayat) is an author and expert on Iran based in Paris, where he has written on Iranian and regional issues over the past 30 years, especially on on secularism and fundamental freedoms.

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