Mahdieh Ghavi

Rachel was to accompany Mahdieh to Canada. Masoumeh had made the arrangements. Identity cards were issued, vaccinations were injected, and permits were obtained. Masoumeh said, “The main issue is the flight from Iran; it’s difficult for people, let alone animals, not just dogs and cats, but even rabbits.” They had selected the Ukrainian flight so that Rachel would accompany Mahdieh. Her cute little rabbit.

Mahdieh was born on November 23, 1999, into a family that had been through a lot of ups and downs. Her family had survived a fatal accident before she was born, her mother had been severely injured, and her grandfather had passed away. Mahdieh’s birth had brightened their world.

“Her birth totally changed our lives. She entered our lives after a period of turmoil. The age difference between her and her elder sister, Masoumeh, was ten years, and it was nine years between her and me, her brother. With her birth, she brought a new life into our lives.”

She was also a top and distinguished student. Masoumeh, her elder sister, was her primary teacher and guide. She was a standout student in Districts 4 and 6 of Tehran during her primary and secondary school years. She graduated with honours from Nokhbegan Allameh Tabatabaei High School and College-preparatory School in Experimental Sciences. She was able to get admission to the pharmacy program without using the admission quota due to her tireless efforts, but her true passion was medicine and the practice of medicine. She was exceptionally gifted, particularly in music. She was a santur player. She had learned santur from the best santur instructors. She liked Homayoun Shajarian’s songs. She was fluent in English and a fan of world music, and at times whispered Adele and Ed Sheeran’s songs. She stated, “Masoumeh is a member of the 1980s’ lost generation. Her abilities were wasted, and now she wants to remake me in her image.”

She loved soccer. She was a die-hard Barcelona (Catalan) and Lionel Messi fan. She was obsessed with all things blue and garnet, from her room’s curtain to her bumper phone case. Every week, you could forecast her mood based on the Barcelona results. Based on speculations, her whereabouts were Enghelab Sports Complex. If you looked for her, you could always find her at Jadeh Tandorosti (health road).

Mahdieh worked hard for a year, following the advice of her elder sister Masoumeh, and eventually received her English language certificate with high marks, and got admission to Saint Mary’s University in Biology. She always had her professional camera, as well as small and large lenses, with her. She was a big fan of Stephen Hawking’s theories, and she adored her rabbit, Rachel.

Rachel could not board the plane. Unfortunately, despite expectations and after making arrangements with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the Ukrainian plane did not live up to its promises and denied Rachel permission to board flight PS752 6 hours before the flight. Masoumeh was disappointed, and Mahdieh sobbed uncontrollably while hugging Rachel, tears streaming down her cheeks. Mahdieh said, “I can’t live without her; I’m not getting on this plane.” She was so determined to have Rachel with her that she finally relaxed, and her cries stopped after promises were made that Rachel would be sent on a completely safe cargo flight. She eventually agreed to board Ukrainian flight PS752. However, she was well aware that this was the last time she would see her parents and brother, something Rachel had most likely told her.

On the last night, the entire family was at the airport. There were signs of war on all the airport’s monitors, billboards, and even the walls and doors. At the airport, there were numerous images and videos of Qasem Soleimani, war-torn women and children, and even missile launches. We did all the boarding procedures with stress and focus, and then there was news on social media about the initiation of a missile strike. Except for Masoumeh and Mahdieh, as well as the happy passengers behind the gate, we were all concerned. I remember when I told Mahdieh about the IRGC attack on the US Ain al-Asad airbase in Iraq, she replied, “The news says Neymar won’t sign a contract extension with Paris Saint-Germain; I hope he returns to Barcelona…”

Finally, we said our final goodbyes to the girls behind the passport control gate. We stayed at the airport before the plane took off. We were talking on the phone, calming each other down. We left the airport as soon as they announced the plane had taken off. On the way, just before entering the Tohid Tunnel, Mojtaba noticed that a plane had crashed; it was Ukrainian flight PS752. We returned to the airport, agitated, hoping to find our loved ones, but we never did…

Unfortunately, despite her efforts and ambitions to study in Canada, Mahdieh stepped inside a plane on January 8th, along with her elder sister, Masoumeh, who was her companion and like a mother to her, and was attacked and downed minutes later by IRGC’s Air Defense Force missiles and shattered into pieces.

Ghavi sisters, with all their knowledge, hope, vivacity, kindness, ambitions, and high talents, were gone, leaving their family with happy and sad memories that no one can think of. They took to the skies with 174 innocent passengers. The disgrace of this crime will last forever for those who committed it.

But …

On January 17, 2020, on a snowy and cold day, right on Masoumeh’s birthday, the remains of the two sisters, with all their ambitions, were buried next to one another at Imamzadeh Saleh – Tajrish. Masoumeh’s tragedy, along with her sister Mahdieh, whom she adored and said, “Mom, I can’t live without Mahdieh” was completed with no trace of her engagement ring, and her rabbit, Rachel, the sole survivor of flight PS752.

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