'She was unique' sister says of Iran plane crash victim Ghanimat Azhdari

Azamat Azhdari's sister, Ghanimat Azhdari, died in Wednesday's plane crash in Iran. Azamat Azhdari says she was happy and proud of her sister for pursuing her studies at the University of Guelph, and expressed frustration over a lack of answers about the crash.

Azamat Azhdari says she's frustrated by lack of answers over crash that killed her sister

Azamat Azhdari (left) remembers fondly her sister's passion for nature. Ghanimat Azhdari (right) died Wednesday when a plane crashed in Iran, killing all 176 people on board. (Photo provided by Azamat Azhdari)

Azamat Azhdari remembers her sister's love of nature, her passion and her willingness to take a stand.

"My sister was very kind to nature. She loved jungles, she loved deserts," Azhdari recalled. "Everything related to nature." 

Her sister is Ghanimat Azhdari, a University of Guelph PhD student from Iran who died Wednesday when Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 to Kyiv crashed in Iran.

Azamat Azhdari lives in the United Kingdom and said she was proud and happy when her sister was accepted at the University of Guelph.

"She was unique. It's not just because I'm her sister - everybody knows that she was a different person. Everybody loved her," she said. "She was really clever."

Azamat Azhdari says her sister was an environmental activist and says in Iran, "they are some kind of illegal to do that. Lots of activists are in jail."

"Nobody cared about nature and if somebody wants to check, [the government doesn't] let them but my sister was keen to do that," she said.

Guelph student 'a firecracker'

Ghanimat Azhdari was a member of the Qashqai tribe in Iran and worked as a geographic information system specialist. Part of her research involved mapping and cataloging Iran's indigenous nomadic communities.

Associate professor Faisal Moola was Azhdari's adviser at the university and called her "a firecracker." 

He said just before she boarded the flight in Tehran, she had sent him an email talking about her concerns about leaving her family and her fear of conflict or war.

Ghanimat Azhdari was leaving behind her parents. She also had two sisters and two brothers. She was engaged to Hamed Alibeiki and Moola says they planned to marry this summer and he would join her in Canada. He was not on the flight and is currently in Iran.

Sisters Azamat Azhdari (right) and Ghanimat Azhdari are seen posing for a photo. Azamat Azhdari says she and her family were proud when Ghanimat decided to move to Canada to study at the University of Guelph. (Provided by Azamat Azhdari)

Cause of crash under investigation

The cause of the plane crash remains under investigation.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Thursday that Canada has intelligence from multiple sources that "indicates that the plane was shot down by an Iranian surface-to-air missile." But Trudeau added the missile "may well have been unintentional."

Iran has denied a missile brought down the plane.

In a report released Wednesday, the Iranian aviation authority said that it has invited "all the states involved" to join a growing team investigating the plane crash.

Azamat Azhdari says she believes the plane was shot down and says she's frustrated by her sister's death because it happened in Iran.

"They did it themselves," she said. "Everybody is sad, everybody's upset, your flag is down, but nobody in Iran, they didn't call us, they didn't tell us anything about this problem and they are lying to us that they say it's a technical problem.

"How [can we] tolerate this kind of lie?"

She says it's unclear who to talk to for answers about what happened.

"There is no responsibility there," she said. "Because of a stupid, stupid mistake of our government, we lost not only Ghanimat, we lost lots and lots of genius people."

Listen to the whole interview with Azamat Azhdari:


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