Fatemeh Latifi (+Video)
The Iranian proverb “wear metal shoes and hold an iron staff” means to persist in doing something despite the challenges. The steel-toe boots I wear symbolize my determination to seek justice.
On January 8, 2020, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 crashed shortly after taking off from the Tehran airport. My nephew, Amir Hossein, son of my older sister, was one of the 176 passengers killed. He was on his way to Edmonton to do a PHD in mechanical engineering at the University of Alberta.
Until that day I had a relatively normal life, living in Karaj with my parents. After getting my degree in Persian literature from Azad University of Karaj and a master’s degree in German literature at Azad University of Tehran, I worked as the director of a hairdressing school and a storyteller in a kindergarten for ten years. But then my life changed forever.
Our parents always taught us that in addition to developing financial independence, we must defend our rights to justice, even though the slightest protest against the government in Iran can have terrifying consequences. Many protesters in Iran are tortured or killed in the regime’s horrific prisons.
After the revelation that the Ukraine Airlines plane was shot down by the Iranian regime, thousands and thousands of people took to the streets and chanted slogans against the government. Unfortunately
many of them were arrested.
Our mourning for Amir, calling out his name along with lighting candles and laying flowers in front of his photo on the street, was a protest against the government’s destruction of the plane as well as the oppression inflicted on us for many years.
The Iranian regime was afraid of their crime being exposed, so it dealt harshly with those who took videos or photos of the protests. But I was determined to get justice for my sister’s son so I shared my videos of our street mourning ceremonies on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
There are many Persian-language channels outside of Iran that are critical of the regime. I met the director of one of these networks and sent my videos to him as well. On the 40th day after the tragedy, one of them was included in a special program about my nephew. It received a lot of attention, which was my objective, but it also drew negative attention to me.
The first time the Islamic Revolutionary Guard arrested me they made threats and asked me not to continue my campaign, but I continued. The second time I was arrested, I was sexually assaulted by two men who still haunt my memory to this day.
After the plane crash, experts from Ukraine and Canada came to Iran to investigate, but because Iran and Canada do not have diplomatic relations, it was difficult for Canada to help us. However, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs saw a video of my sister on social media, holding her son’s photo, and immediately asked to meet her. My younger sister and her husband in Germany were able to contact the Ministry through a human rights activist based in the United States and Foreign Affairs appointed a person to handle our case.
The Canadian government granted us asylum and we left Iran immediately, arriving in Edmonton on February 27, 2020. I lived with my sister and her family for a short time, then decided to live separately.
A legend of ancient Iran, Kaveh Ahangar, protested against the tyrant of his time. Inspired by this, I have decided to learn English so that I can share Amir’s story and the story of the oppression of the Iranian people with the world.
Fatemeh Latifi lived in Iran with her parents before coming to Canada in 2020. She has a bachelor’s degree in Persian literature and a master’s degree in German literature. Fatemeh was granted asylum in Canada after her activism led to her arrest in Iran. By participating in The Shoe Project, Fatemah has achieved her dream to define the story of the oppression of the Iranian people.