The tragic events which took place during January 2020 will remain in the psyche of the Iranian community for a long time to come.
The event which brought about roiling uncertainties started with Donald Trump authorising a drone strike on Iran's top military officer, General Qasem Soleimani. The Iranian officials announced three days of national mourning and then responded with missiles striking two US air bases in Irbil and Al Asad, west of Baghdad.
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These series of events left the Iranians and the various expat community around the world tense, dreading the consequences of a possible full on war between the countries, and further adding pressure to a nation which has been crushed by the ongoing sanctions imposed by the United States.
However, the tragic event that followed on January 8 broke the hearts of Iranians inside and outside country. A Ukrainian Airlines passenger plane Boeing 737-800 which had departed from Tehran and was heading to Kiev carrying 176 passengers, predominantly Iranian or dual Iranian/Canadian nationals, suddenly crashed, immediately resulting in the death of all passengers and crew members.
Initial accounts given by Iranian officials on the reason the Ukrainian airline plane crashed included technical aircraft problems, ruling out the possibility that one of Iran's own missiles may have brought the plane down. On Saturday morning however, many Iranian expats, between 6000-10,000 of us who live here in New Zealand, realised that the worst had in fact occurred.
Following international pressure for a full investigation of events leading up to the tragic event - and an unverified video footage showing a missile hitting a passenger plane - in the early hours on January 11, the Iranian officials finally announced preliminary internal investigations by armed forces reveal "human error at time of crisis caused by US adventurism led to the disaster". The plane was shot down by Iran's very own military by mistake.
Most Iranians, including myself, have very strong family bonds and ties with our home country where our families live and are proud of our cultural heritage. In this sense, the victims of this tragic crash were no different from many other members of the Iranian community who live here in New Zealand.
They were visiting home to see family members during the Christmas holidays. Since hearing this news, many of us are struggling to grasp how in a country where inflation is at its ultimate highest, lives seems seem to be the cheapest and least worthy.
We are infuriated, deeply saddened and in a state of absolute shock.
We not only lost valuable innocent lives, we lost a wealth of experience, skills and expertise. Reports have said most who died were predominantly academics, general physicians, dentists, scientists, PhD and masters' candidates, professionals in Canada. Predominantly they were people who had migrated in pursuit of knowledge and higher education. We lost our prodigies. We lost the critics and conscience of societies.
In Iranian culture, grieving is never done alone but rather as one big family and over an extensive period. Over the next couple of weeks, Iranian organisations and community groups in all major cities in New Zealand and around the world are organising support groups and sessions giving the community the opportunity to grief and console. For those grieving, these sessions may provide some relief.
Most Iranians born in the 1980s have learned to be very strong and resilient. We have had to be, under the constant shadow of the threat of war; crushing international sanctions where we watch the devaluation of our currency before our eyes; and bear/hear news of our politically-active youth who are either oppressed or arrested.
But right now, we feel angered, heartbroken and tired and look for justice and accountability by those who directly or indirectly brought about this catastrophic national tragedy.
Now more than ever, we are in grief and in need of truth and transparency for closure. We grieve and wait with a glimpse of hope and whole lot of dread, as the politicians play the blame game.
We already fear what history has repeatedly shown us. Whether that be through loss of lives, or through a new series of suffocating sanctions and debts, it is the people who end up paying for the cost of this national and international tragedy.
• Nadia Sal is an Iranian-born, Wellington based researcher and former community leader.