A commercial airplane crashed into the Zagros Mountains, killing all 65 people on board (New York Times). The Iran Aseman Airlines plane went down near its destination, Yasuj, about 485 miles south of its departure point, Tehran. Due to decades of international sanctions, Iran’s commercial passenger aircrafts have aged, causing regular accidents in recent years. The twin-engine ATR-72 that crashed was more than 24 years old. According to data cited by the Flight Safety Foundation’s Aviation Safety Network, the plane was returned to service just three months ago, after being in storage for six years.
Fog initially prevented rescue helicopters from reaching the site, so many rescue teams climbed Mount Dena, which has an elevation of 14,500 feet (4,420 meters). The bodies of 32 passengers have been found so far, and many of the remaining bodies are buried under ice and snow (Reuters).
Earlier reports said that 66 people had died in the crash, but one would-be passenger did not board the flight (Twitter). Farhad Aramesh-Nia was the sole passenger that missed the Aseman Airlines flight. Aramesh-Nia posted a copy of his ticket on social media and said, “God has been very gracious to me, but with all my heart I'm saddened by the loved ones lost.”
U.S. sanctions have turned Iranian airplanes into “flying coffins” (ThinkProgress).
Iranian airline covertly bought parts from U.S. suppliers (CBS News).
Meanwhile, former hardliner President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wrote an open letter addressed to the Supreme Leader calling for “free” presidential and parliamentary elections (Reuters). Ahmadinejad’s re-election in 2009 prompted the post-election protests known as the Green Movement over alleged vote rigging.
Also, Iranian officials have promised to end the house arrest of the Green Movement leaders by the end of the Iranian year, March 20 (Tehran Times). Deputy Majlis Speaker Ali Motahari said that certain measures were taken and now the authorities are “waiting to see if they deliver what they promised.” Reformist presidential candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi, his wife Zahra Rahnavard, and Mehdi Karroubi have been under house arrest since 2011.