The Keys to Paradise: On Children, Martyrdom, and War

By Amir SoltaniFebruary 2, 2020

The Keys to Paradise: On Children, Martyrdom, and War
“When may the dead see the rays of the sun?”

— Gilgamesh, in mourning Enkidu


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP’S DECISION to assassinate General Qasem Soleimani was not how most Iranian Americans wanted to ring in the new decade.

But there was no escaping reality — Soleimani’s charred remains. A media frenzy sparked by a hellfire drone. A public humiliation staged in the heart of Baghdad. An imminent threat eliminated. Claims that 603 American servicemen killed in Iraq had been avenged. An American flag tweeted.

The Ayatollah vowed revenge. Hard revenge.

On January 8, shortly after Soleimani’s burial in Iran, and at the exact hour of his death, Iranian missiles crashed into American bases in Iraq.

Our worst nightmare was upon us. America and Iran were at war.

The gates of hell seemed to open beneath us. And we could glimpse into the jaws of the beast — thousands, if not millions would be swept into the belly of an Iran war. There was no defying the gravity, no denying the potential carnage.

After the panic, you move beyond the abstract. War gets personal. We Iranians and Americans have been through enough Iraq wars by now. We know the drill, the stats, the toll, the counts, the studies, all. We know London, Dresden, Tokyo, and Leningrad, and we have our own litany of modern contenders. Khorramshahr, Halabja, Fallujah, Mosul, and Aleppo. And let’s throw in Sarajevo and Grozny.

No shortage of cities gutted by war. And peoples left unmoored.

For the great and not so great powers, proxy wars are just a game of chess. Not so for kids.


In truth, I have lived under the threat of death and the shadow of war since 1979 when I was 12. You go to sleep, and the world is beautiful. You wake up, and you are in a morgue.

Our world is fragile. It can collapse in the blink of an eye. Even when you are strong, you can feel utterly inconsequential. Invisible before the forces that wreck your world.

In the 1970s, no one expected Ayatollah Khomeini to wreck ours. He was in exile in Iraq. And yet he emerged out of the darkness, a worm in some seminary magnified into a massive hydra in the morgues of the state. He exacted revenge against the Shah, and then his nemesis Saddam. And America and Israel too.

There was no escaping his shadow or avoiding his scowl. His bitter bile spread through the land infecting hearts and minds with a puritanical violence that sought to purge sin out of the satanic body of a corrupt and sinful Iran. Thanatos became the order of the day, with beauty itself banned, eros in chains. The mullah’s morgue became Iran’s womb, the peacock’s throne the martyr’s tomb. Backward became forward, with the Taliban as modern and Cyrus as faux.

Our Islam was my grandmother’s heart, gentle and kind, brimming with love and compassion, my grandfather’s Allah, astrolabes in old manuscripts ablaze with Ghazali’s vision, Khayyam’s wonder, Khomeini’s Islam was alien and arrested, barren and desolate. His Allah devoid of mercy and bereft of light, God’s shadow upon the earth the executioner’s crane, the hangman’s noose his verse.

I saw my first dead generals long before Soleimani’s targeted killing. In Tehran, not Baghdad. Revolutionary justice took on the form of summary executions. Gratuitous and pathological. They were labeled “corruption on earth” and their deaths celebrated as judicial, not targeted, killings. They appeared in Iran’s newspapers, now windows into a morgue, both before and after their executions. No state funerals for them. They were stripped of dignity and decorum, displayed in their underwear, their chests riddled with bullet holes.

The Persian word for the executions was “tir-baraan.” “tir” for bullets and for pain, “baraan” for rain, or hail. We were soaked in rain, drenched in bullets, compliments of Khomeini’s hanging judge, Ayatollah Khalkhali, a diminutive figure giddy with glee.

The killing spree ushered in a reign of terror. One of the murdered generals was a close friend’s beloved grandfather. His execution rippled through our school, one kid couldn’t stop shaking. Forty years later, the bullet is still lodged in her majestic heart. And no matter what I do, I can’t pull it out or wash it off.

Even as kids we knew that the curtains were coming down. The dark ages were upon us. I held out hope for Iran’s resurrection: the renaissance after Khomeini, sure that there was more life in our Iran than there was death in him.

But life never came.

Ironically Khomeini wore the crown, inhabited the constitution, and ruled Iran in the name of a cosmic child — the Mahdi, a messiah whose return at the end of time would usher in a new day.

In the interim, an interregnum until the Mahdi’s return, it was Khomeini’s reflection people saw in the moon, in a night as long as all the dreams and prayers of a people extinguished. The Mahdi’s moon became a sickle, eviscerating childhood with every swipe and with every twist.

Girls could now be harvested at nine, for marriage, and boys were ripe, for execution, at fifteen, for martyrdom, less. Minors were so much flesh to be slaughtered. Sexuality was criminalized, criminality sexualized, with a price on our every orifice, a prize for our every wound, virgins slashed for marriage, orphans discounted for war. The Mahdi absent, childhood’s fate was sealed.

Our Iran, a kaleidoscope of life and a cradle of love, a land crystallized out of light, a cosmic creation of dimensions sublime, imaginations divine, a pageant of nations and mosaic of cultures was no more. The past, a canvas as boundless as all the hues in a peacock’s blues, was declared null and void. History, now heresy, was banished, for blasphemy, with antiquity, in all its splendor, scraped and scratched out of the present, a palette of miserable grays and sullen browns vanishing in the vortex of a stark, sour, and sweltering black.


My parents whisked me out of Iran a month before the Iran-Iraq war, but even in London, in Cadogan Square, there was no escaping the shadow of Khomeini and Saddam’s savagery.

With Khomeini's revolutionary court slaughtering generals by the dozen and Iran's defenses down, Saddam pounced. Before we knew it, he was bombing Tehran, jets, missiles, and all. And with your family and friends spread all over Tehran, war felt like a game of chance, a lottery in which you never knew where or when your number would show up — a lottery by missiles.

There are no warnings. Just a hiss.

And even after a miss, there is no relief. The missiles have dug their fangs into someone else’s home. The shrapnel flies everywhere and belongs to everyone. And besides, there is always tomorrow.

When you are young, and your family is living through a revolution, a hostage crisis, and a war, you forget decorum. You become a citizen of the states of emergency.

Of course, Iranians are a defiant lot. They make the best of life, even in the midst of war. Our family had a perfect coping mechanism. As soon as the sirens went off, they’d rush down to the basement or zip to gardens and orchards out of town. They’d pass time playing backgammon, feasting on pomegranates. Emotional pomegranating. I highly recommend it.

Still, the sense of foreboding, the sound of sirens, the feeling that bombs can fall on you and the world can cave in on you took a toll on many kids. My brother included. He was nine.

Kids hate war. Even as chants and slang. “Bomb, bomb, Iran.” “Death to America.” “Wipe out Israel.” What haunted my brother was not death. It was the knowledge that war was an act of abduction. It could snatch away our parents. And then? He would have to survive in a world in which you have no protection — no home and no history.

And yet for Khomeini and his ilk, the war was a blessing, and martyrdom the rage. As caliph, he could prey on the corpse of our Iran in the morgue of his Islam. He could satisfy his lust for holy war with an endless supply of kids.

There isn’t much left of our family in Iran, but our memories and roots still bind us to Khuzestan, the province bordering Iraq and the Persian Gulf. My grandfather was a fixture representing the region in parliament, and so his house in Tehran was the hub in which we experienced Iran. He knew the province, its geography and genealogy, waterways and tribes, like the palm of his hand, and somehow he held his pieces of Iran together through many a convulsion.

Miraculously, his library of ancient manuscripts — everything from astronomy and botany to philosophy and theology — is still intact, minus one masterpiece, an old Qur’an that bears the imprint of his touch.

When the war came, all that he sought to lift with his love sunk back into mud. He had devoted his life to building Khuzestan’s infrastructure and binding its sinews securely to the rest of Iran, with water, roads, electricity, education, and courts and all that would allow life to blossom and civilization to flourish.

Suddenly, that legacy was in peril. Streams of refugees streaked out of Khuzestan, millions internally displaced. My mom’s childhood companion, Maloos, and her kids among them.

To this day, Khuzestan lies gutted.

Kids my age and younger were plucked out of villages and sent to claw back our province from the clutches of Saddam. Human waves they called them. Soldiers of the Mahdi.

They were shattered by mines, cut down by shrapnel and strewn on battlefields. Uniforms coated in blood, remains caked in mud, boots flung about, faces torn apart.

Their images stay with you. So do their keys to paradise. A world frozen in time. And somehow, you are there. In the picture. With them.

And not. You are in London. Iran and Iraq are far away. Trench warfare, chemical warfare, gas masks, that’s so 1917.

Oblivion came packed as education — Charterhouse was meant to keep me out of Iran, and the war. I even had to go to Chapel on Sundays, Islam notwithstanding, and even worse, hear my horrid roommate, Rex, croak Blake’s “Jerusalem.” No end to collective punishment in those British public schools.

To top it off, my aunt and uncle in Geneva covered all my expenses, plus a 10-quid weekly allowance. I lived like a sheikh among vultures and hyenas, the destitute sons of England’s niggardly lords and dastardly brokers. And so while Saddam and Khomeini were having their dust up, trampling on kids, my friends and I would wind our way along drizzly old England’s pastures green, umbrellas and all, and with my pocket money, we’d grab ourselves our Cornettos and slurp, joke and jab our merry way back to school.

Back home, the kids at the front didn’t move an inch. And that’s the thing, they are still lying where I left them. Their mouths dry, tongues parched. You can’t share your ice cream with them. Nothing reaches them — not your money, not your love, not your lament. Not the rain, not even the snow.

Nothing feels as heavy as their absence.

Somehow the beasts of war churn through poor kids as if they’re chewing gum. The scales of justice are so rigged against the young that you want to puke, only you are not sure in whose direction.

Anyway, bankers, brokers, and arms dealers made billions speculating in the Iran-Iraq war. They made money off all those boots, plus the margins on the keys to paradise.

Kids by the millions ended up paying the price with their broken bodies.

And I’m not talking Lululemon psycho-yoga-hippie-babble. It’s pure finance. I can trace the flow of blood — the passage of the dead — from the battlefield into our belly. Here’s the general equation:

Thousands of kids die liberating Khuzestan, the province that is the source of your family’s standing and status, and of course, a sea of oil. It follows then that war serves as a medium for commodifying the price of human flesh and blood by converting the dead into land, into real estate. Do the math. How many thousands of kids claw their way to liberate how many acres of land? What’s the rate of death per square foot of human wave and surge? And how many human waves and surges, how many children sliced and ground into dust to liberate how much land? How much blood to secure the boundaries of how many oil fields, with each oil field holding how many barrels of oil? Blood gets recycled through land and oil, monetized in debts and currencies, and it all gets pumped back into goods that fuel the economy. Whether it is as securities, bonds, benefits, or subsidies or just rice and oil, the value of every family’s titles, assets, and estates, including our childhood oasis, a garden in Sohanak, was repurchased with the blood of children.

And when children offer us their life, there is no escaping their grace and no denying their innocence — the light that pervades and the love that protects the fabric of our life.

They never had a taste of the blessings and the abundance of their parents and yet they have sacrificed everything to guard the gates of the civilization whose faith we claim to witness, whose past we claim to inherit, and whose future we claim to guard.

Who can ignore the face of such a debt, the price of such devotion?

And yet, there is nothing we can do for them. They are all spent and lost. They have come and gone. For the sake of vengeance. In the currency of enmity.

You hope against hope that if you grieve deeply enough and pray long enough, you will find a way to undo their deaths. The boys and girls will come back to life, one after the other, regenerate the earth, or at least the province in which they deposited their keys to paradise. And then, perhaps, you can breathe again.

How I have craved that day.

A day of ablution when all our prayers are answered. When we can wash the blood that covers the face of our faith, pay our debt to all who lie buried in the earth beneath us, and end our captivity to the gravity of our revolutions.

It’s not hard to imagine such a Persian New Year. I look into the mirror and once again see Iran’s true reflection — the promise of life blossoming out of a cycle of war written on calendars of stone, boundless joy rising after an eternity of burial behind tombs of time.


Fast forward, and 40 years later, I’m now an American, even more removed from the past, and at the pinnacle of my powers, endowed with every blessing life can offer, including a mutt named Louie. With another generation about to get swept into the trenches of trauma and war, though, once again I am 12.

There’s Soleimani burning in the wreckage of Trump’s fire and fury. And the Ayatollah’s missiles tearing through the heavens screaming “hard revenge.” The fragile hyphen that binds my America to Iran, my wings to my roots, is about to collapse. The pain shoots in every direction, the drones, the missiles, the tweets, the taunts.

A friend from the dog park calls me. Urges us to leave America. At once. You’ll be interned, like the Japanese.

I brush his fears off. Mine are deeper.

I am bracing for the abyss. I have witnessed the beasts buried beneath the ground rise to mince and burn the flesh of children. How can Trump and Khamenei not fill the void left by Saddam and Khomeini with another generation’s blood?

Instead, a miracle. A pause on the precipice of war.

By a stroke of fate and fortune, the Ayatollah’s missiles have missed their mark. There is no Benghazi on steroids. And, in Baghdad, no repeat of Beirut. No marine barracks in rubble.

The commander-in-chief calls on us to rejoice: “The American people should be extremely grateful and happy no Americans were harmed in last night's attack by the Iranian regime. We suffered no casualties, all of our soldiers are safe, and only minimal damage was sustained at our military bases.”

Hallelujah. Praise be to the gods of war, the Swiss embassy, or whoever stage manages calamities on our behalf.

Except that I’m reeling in pain.

The Iranian missiles directed at the Americans in Iraq found another target: Flight 752, a Ukrainian passenger aircraft crashes outside Tehran’s international airport. There were no survivors. All 176 passengers were killed.

Another phoenix, now ash. Ash, and tears.

Another flight of faith interrupted, with dreams, lives, faces, and voices all confined in body bags. Personal items strewn and scattered about. The odd boot, the burned album, a lost unicorn.

We have come full circle. Another 176 people now join the roster of the hundreds of thousands of civilians killed since 9/11, and the millions since Khomeini’s arrival in Iran aboard Air France flight 4721 on February 1, 1979.

And so the question is: Have we reached the tipping point? Have the leaders of Iran and the United States accomplished their mission? Have they honored their debt to the fallen? Are the 603 Americans avenged? Is Soleimani?

If the epic Gilgamesh is any guide, there may be no way out of the vortex of the war and terror.

We have all been swept into the underworld with nothing but vengeance as our refuge and the furies as our guide. And the gravity that binds us to avenge the corpse of the dead has so infected our hearts, that there may be no room for redemption — no way for love to triumph over death.

Who can turn their face away from the devastation wrought in our name? The 176 passengers are dead in a matter of minutes. Their plane departed at 6:12 a.m. local time. They were hit two minutes after takeoff by SA-15 surface-to-air missiles. They were 45 kilometers southwest of Tehran between Shahriar and Parand. At 8,000 feet. The dead are 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Germans, three Brits. The 63 Canadians included a mother and child — Parisa Eghbalian, a dentist, and Reera, her darling nine-year old daughter, a pianist. And let's not forget Eli, Reera's pink elephant. Eghbal is Persian for good fortune, luck.

How dare we the people, Iranians and Americans, congratulate our leaders for their restraint?

Who can ignore what has befallen this mother and child? O, how that child must have fallen out of the sky.

Who dared to abort her flight in the heavens above Iran?

In whose name was she struck, in whose fire did she burn, and in whose fury did she fall?

Which calendar can hold her memory? Which clock can record her passage?

Who will monetize the price of her blood, and in which currency will she be converted?

Who will reign in the rage that has turned sky above our children into the face of an abyss that arrests their flight, burns their wings, and consumes their faith?

A thought runs through me over and over again: What if the child is falling through me? What if we are the axis of space and time in which she encountered death, what if she is falling through the gravity of our absence in the void that is our name?

And who is next?

Because the peril is before us, not behind us.

In a tweet, Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif declared that Iran had “concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens and senior officials were launched.” He added, “We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has also cited self-defense against an imminent threat as the basis for the targeted killing that triggered the Iranian missile attack.

Both have an obligation and a duty to explain how the UN Charter — Article 51 — empowers them to provoke a war whose first salvos alone have claimed the lives of 176 innocent civilians.

What was proportionate about their deaths? On balance, how do they weigh the assassination against the carnage from the crash? Are generals high value and civilians worthless?

Let us posit that both America and Iran were acting in self-defense. What are the standards of proof necessary for establishing and eliminating an imminent threat? Who determined the levels of tolerance, as well as the scope and scale for margins of error? Where did the passengers of Flight 752 fit in these equations and calculations?

If Iran and the United States are in a state of war, do they have the legal right to plan targeted killings and missile strikes against civilian targets, and if so, when they engage in indiscriminate acts of killing that result in the death of children do such acts constitute war crimes?

And if they are not in a state of war, then what is the legal justification for their actions? Is a targeted killing in a third country legal? And accidental or not, wouldn’t the shooting down of a civilian airline be a crime against humanity?


We are all becoming jihadis, we think jihadi, we speak jihadi, and we act jihadi.

Even when children are dead, we bray, we bark, and we boast as if nothing can get in the way of our jihad.

Military jargon, strategic doctrine, and political ideology have become instruments for masking the human suffering caused by war and terror. Language is bludgeoned into rational codes and militant templates that blunt our consciences and numb our emotions to all the lives that are torn and shredded apart in our name.

A terrible truth stares us all in the face. And there is no escaping its stench. In fact, we should let it in all the better to breathe it out. We indulge and excuse the unforgivable.

The lie is that war is now clean and precise, surgical, when in fact war is dirty and indiscriminate murder. And in the aftermath of a strike, we cannot even reconstruct or recover the bodies. According to the Iranian government, of the 176 bodies, only 61 have been identified. And when something is left of a mother or a child the shock of recognition may cause even greater harm. 
And the toll still rises. This just in: The Pentagon reports that the number of American servicemen suffering from traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) as a result of the blasts at our bases in Iraq has risen to 50 — 16 more than previously reported.  The president’s response? “I heard they had headaches, and a couple of other things, but I would say, and I can report, it's not very serious.”


Just three letters: a T, a B, and an I — TBI. The coma does not reside behind the letters. It hides in the letters. And it is ours — not theirs. 

Is it any surprise then that the only way to cope with the horrors and trauma of war is to deny reality?


If one listens to government officials, war is a game, a bit like basketball. We scored a goal by killing Soleimani. They scored a goal by striking at our bases. We have both escaped unscathed. We got to demonstrate deterrence. They got to show off their offensive capabilities — their Russian missile systems. The books are reconciled. The credit for Soleimani’s assassination is debited against the strikes against American bases. It’s a clean, crisp transaction. Both sides can claim victory.

Besides, the world order is premised on the sovereignty of states, not the sanctity of children. How could their lives take precedence over the immunity of presidents and the infallibility of caliphs? Does their kingdom have a bomb in the basement and a flag in the halls of nations? Who on earth would vacate their permanent seat at the Security Council when kids, by the millions, are bleeding in the wells and crushed behind the walls dividing the great powers?

Iran’s foreign minister graduated with a doctorate in international law from an American university. He is a bard who can recite every article of the UN Charter. And Article 51 grants every state the right to self-defense, always so proportionate and polite, so who is to say that the death of a few children, if properly labeled as an imminent threat, and discretely dismissed as collateral damage, is not justified in law or religion?

And yes, Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, may lower his flag as a sign of respect for the victims of Flight 752, but that’s where the show of contrition stops. How could the dark clowns who have pushed America and Iran to the brink of war admit to a calamity they have caused by lowering their flags half-mast? On the same day, together, and following the lead of Canada’s Trudeau? And for what, 176 passengers?

Far be it for Iran’s supreme leader, let alone the rest of the ayatollahs and guards in the Hidden Imam’s secret service, to shed a tear for innocents lost. After serenading the martyrdom of Soleimani, buried as a footnote in the leader’s sermon, at the 45th minute, a passing reference to the plane crash. As with all the other disasters that had befallen Iran — from Cinema Rex arson to the Plasco inferno and the Sanchi tanker fire — he was terribly sorry to see his children on fire. He even confessed to a heartburn, with Alka-Seltzer, no doubt, for relief. Besides, the missiles were Russian and, as Iran’s arsonist-in-chief, he cannot be fired for technical errors. Why would he risk drinking out of the poisoned chalice of peace when he is addicted to the opioids of war?

We can waive off the unintended consequences of a passenger jet that has crashed in our name. But there is a price. Once we surrender our judgment and our name to bellicose clowns who can provoke and escalate a war, death becomes our companion, the morgue our destiny, with life and its blessings, love with all its bounty, and peace, in its full glory, a mirage.

The consequences of this deadening have been in plain view for centuries. Let’s look at Michelangelo’s Pietà at St. Peter’s, the statue of Mary holding the lifeless body of Christ, and assume the full weight of the cross: God’s grief in stone.


States do not honor, respect, or protect children. They devour and destroy them. Slaughter them like sheep. The kids are pawns. They exit the world as they have entered it. With barely a whimper, and virtually no name. With no diary to record their dreams and no music to announce their departure.

But what if we are not confined to the underworld or condemned by the apocalypse? What if, in fact, our children have held the key to paradise all along?

What if all we need in order to open its gates is to listen to our children? What if they are nectar of life, the face and the body, the spirit and the song of the planet, the sanctuary of all that is human and the temple to all that is holy?

At a memorial service at Carleton University held for his father, Mansour Parjam, a victim of the crash, 13-year-old Ryan, comforted the grief-stricken assembly:

“I can’t remember any single moment in my life where Mansour, my dad, had any trace of negativity in his voice or actions. He'd always tell me to stay positive,” he said. “I stand up here a week after this horrible tragedy, and I still can’t believe it. I feel like I’m dreaming. But I know that if I was dreaming, and that if he woke me up, he’d tell me that it’s going to be okay. And it will be.”


List of people on Flight 752, the Ukrainian plane, according to the airline:

Surname, Name, Year of Birth

Abaspourqadi Mohamm 1986
Abbasnezhad Mojtaba 1993
Abtahiforoushani Seyedmehran 1982
Aghabali Iman 1991
Agha Miri Maryam 1973
Ahmadi Motahereh 2011
Ahmadi Muh Sen 2014
Ahmadi Rahmtin 2010
Ahmadi Sekinhe 1989
Ahmady Mitra 1973
Amirliravi Mahsa 1989
Arasteh Fareed 1987
Arbabbahrami Arshia 2000
Arsalani Evin 1990
Asadilari Mohammadhossein 1996
Asadilari Zeynab 1998
Ashrafi Habibabadi Amir 1991
Attar Mahmood 1950
Azadian Roja 1977
Azhdari Ghanimat 1983
Badiei Ardestani Mehraban 2001
Bashiri Samira 1990
Beiruti Mohammad Amin 1990
Borghei Negar 1989
Choupannejad Shekoufeh 1963
Dadashnejad Delaram 1993
Daneshmand Mojgan 1976
Dhirani Asgar 1945
Djavadi Asll Hamidreza 1967
Djavadi Asll Kian 2002
Ebnoddin Hamidi Ardalan 1971
Ebnoddin Hamidi Kamyar 2004
Ebrahim Niloufar 1985
Ebrahimi Khoei Behnaz 1974
Eghbali Bazoft Shahrokh 1960
Eghbali Bazoft Shahzad 2011
Eghbalian Parisa 1977
Elyasi Mohammad Mahdi 1991
Emami Sayedmahdi 1959
Emami Sophie 2014
Eshaghian Dorcheh Mehdi 1995
Esmaeilion Reera 2010
Esnaashary Esfahani Mansour 1990
Faghihi Sharieh 1961
Falsafi Faezeh 1973
Falsafi Faraz 1988
Farzaneh Aida 1986
Feghahati Shakiba 1980
Foroutan Marzieh 1982
Ghaderpanah Iman 1985
Ghaderpanah Parinaz 1986
Ghafouri Azar Siavash 1984
Ghandchi Daniel 2011
Ghandchi Dorsa 2003
Ghasemi Ariani Milad 1987
Ghasemi Dastjerdi Fatemeh 1994
Ghasemi Amirhossein 1987
Ghasemi Kiana 2000
Ghavi Mandieh 1999
Ghavi Masoumeh 1989
Gholami Farideh 1981
Ghorbani Bahabadi A 1998
Golbabapour Suzan 1970
Gorji Pouneh 1994
Haghjoo Saharnaz 1982
Hajesfandiari Bahareh 1978
Hajiaghavand Sadaf 1992
Hajighassemi Mandieh 1981
Hamzeei Sara 1986
Hasani/sadi Zahra 1994
Hashemi Shanrzad 1974
Hassannezhad Parsa 2003
Hatefi Mostaghim Sahan 1987
Hayatdavoudi Hadis 1992
Jadidi Elsa 2011
Jadidi Pedran 1991
Jamshidi Shadi 1988
Jebelli Mohammaddam 1990
Kadkhoda Zaden Mohammaddam 1979
Kadkhodazaden Kasha 1990
Karamimoghadam Bahareh 1986
Katebi Rahimen 1999
Kaveh Azaden 1979
Kazerani Fatemeh 1987
Khadem Forough 1981
Kobiuk Olga 1958
Lindberg Emil 2012
Lindberg Erik 2010
Lindberg Raheleh 1982
Lindberg Mikael 1979
Madani Firouzeh 1965
Maghsoudlouestarabadi Siavash 1976
Maghsoudlouesterabadi Paria 2004
Mahmoodi Fatemeh 1989
Malakhova Olena 1981
Malek Maryam 1979
Maleki Dizaje Fereshteh 1972
Mamani Sara 1983
Mianji Mohammadjavad 1992
Moeini Mohammad 1984
Moghaddam Rosstin 2010
Mohammadi Mehdi 1999
Molani Hiva 1981
Molani Kurdia 2018
Moradi Amir 1998
Morattab Arvin 1984
Moshrefrazavimoghaddam Soheila 1964
Mousavi Daria 2005
Mousavi Dorina 2010
Mousavibafrooei Pedram 1972
Nabiyi Elnaz 1989
Naderi Farzahen 1981
Naghibi Zahra 1975
Naghib Lahouti Mehr 1987
Nahavandi Milad 1985
Niazi Arnica 2011
Niazi Arsan 2008
Niknam Farhad 1975
Norouzi Alireza 2008
Nourian Ghazal 1993
Oladi Alma 1992
Omidbakhsh Roja 1996
Ovaysi Amir Hossein 1978
Ovaysi Asal 2013
Pasavand Fatemeh 2002
Pey Alireza 1972
Pourghaderi Ayeshe 1983
Pourjam Mansour 1966
Pourshabanoshibi Naser 1966
Pourzarabi Arash 1993
Raana Shahab 1983
Rahimi Jiwan 2016
Rahimi Razgar 1981
Rahmanifar Nasim 1994
Razzaghi Khamsi Ni 1974
Rezai Mahdi 2000
Rezae Hossain 1999
Saadat Saba 1998
Saadat Sara 1996
Saadat Zeinolabedin 1990
Saati Kasra 1972
Sadeghi Alvand 1990
Sadeghi Anisa 2009
Sadeghi Mirmohammad 1976
Sadeghi Sahand 1980
Sadighi Neda 1969
Sadr Niloufar 1958
Sadr Seyednoojan 2008
Saeedinia Amirhosse 1994
Safarpoorkoloor Pe 1999
Saket Mohammadhosse 1986
Salahi Moh 1988
Saleheh Mohammad 1987
Saraeian Sajedeh 1993
Setareh Kokab Hamid 1988
Shadkhoo Sheyda 1978
Shaterpour Khiaban 1988
Soltani Paniz 1991
Tahmasebi Khademasa 1984
Tajik Mahdi 1999
Tajik Shahram 1998
Tarbhai Afifa 1964
Tarbha Alina 1988
Toghian Darya 1997
Zarei Arad 2002
Zibaie Maya 2004
Zokaei Sam 1977

The crew members were named as:

Oleksiy Naumkin (pilot)
Volodymyr Gaponenko (pilot)
Serhiy Khomenko (pilot)
Kateryna Statnik (flight attendant)
Ihor Matkov (flight attendant)
Maria Mykytiuk (flight attendant)
Denys Lykhno (flight attendant)
Valeria Ovcharuk (flight attendant)
Yulia Sologub (flight attendant)

Is it any wonder, then, that we are denied a glimpse, let alone the key to paradise, a realm beyond war and before death, where life and love spring eternal?


Amir Soltani is an Iranian-American writer, filmmaker, and human rights activist. His graphic novel on protest and dissent in Iran, Zahra’s Paradise, co-created with Khalil Bendib, was nominated for two Eisner Awards.


Featured image: "Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752" by Mehr News Agency is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

Banner image: "Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752" by Mehr News Agency is licensed under CC BY 4.0.

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Amir Soltani is an Iranian-American writer, filmmaker, and human rights activist. His graphic novel on protest and dissent in Iran, Zahra’s Paradise, co-created with Khalil Bendib, was nominated for two Eisner Awards. The story of a mother and blogger’s search for Mehdi, a student who has vanished in the aftermath of Iran’s 2009 presidential elections, Zahra’s Paradise made publishing history as a real-time online graphic novel translated into 16 languages. It was featured in a seminal article on the “Graphic Novel Renaissance” by Newsweek and covered by dozens of news outlets including The Economist, The New York TimesDer SpiegelBBCJakarta Times, and others. Albeit a fictional character, Zahra ran on a human rights platform in Iran’s 2013 presidential elections. Amir is the producer and co-director of Dogtown Redemption, a documentary film on class, race, and space chronicling the life of recyclers in West Oakland, California. Dogtown Redemption was executive produced by Jamie Wolf, Geralyn Dreyfous, Regina Scully, Abou Farman, Khosrow Semnani and Steve Nasiri. It was broadcast on PBS and nominated for an Emmy. Amir studied social and intellectual history at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts and Harvard. He has a mutt named Louie.


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