Friends, family and colleagues gathered on the Fort Garry campus Friday to mourn the loss of U of M community members who were on board a Ukrainian jetliner that crashed near Tehran, Iran, Jan. 8, killing all 176 on board.
The campus community has been reeling since learning three U of M alumni, a graduate student and a student of the International College of Manitoba (ICM) were among the 57 Canadians aboard Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 that crashed minutes after takeoff.
U of M graduates Pedram Mousavi, Mojgan Daneshmand and Forough Khadem, graduate student Amirhossien Ghasemi and ICM student Amirhosein Bahabadi Ghorbani were all aboard the aircraft.
Jude Uzonna, associate dean of research in the Rady faculty of health sciences and associate professor of medical microbiology, was a close friend and colleague of Khadem, who earned a PhD in 2016.
Through tears, he described sharing meals with Khadem and said he was texting with her while she was in Iran.
“Humanity has lost one of its best,” he said.
Mehrnaz Sadroleslami, president of the University of Manitoba Iranian Students’ Association, which took a lead role in organizing the memorial, said that for students so far away from home, the university community fills in as family.
“Our friends become our family,” she said. “We live with them, we laugh with them, we go around with them. We have everything with them so that is the most important reason why we are so close to each other.”
The ceremony was followed by a candle-lighting for each of the victims and a song delivered by a U of M student playing a tar, a traditional Iranian instrument.
U of M cultural teacher and Aboriginal student advisor Carl Stone offered a drum song “in the hopes that it will lift that grief, that burden, a little bit and to remind us that we all carry that, we all share that with each other.”
“We share in the sadness and the grief that we’re all feeling,” he said. “I feel that too. In times like this we do come together like this as a community to talk about those loved ones that we lost.”
Shortly after the ceremony, the Iranian government acknowledged it had mistakenly shot down the aircraft amid escalating tensions between Iran and the U.S. after Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was killed by an American airstrike Jan. 3.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Global News Monday that “If there were no tensions, if there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians would be right now home with their families.”
Speaking Sunday at a vigil in Edmonton, Trudeau said Canada would seek “justice and accountability.”
Fariba Eghtedari, an Iranian who has lived in Winnipeg for years, spoke at a rally Saturday and called for a reigning in, rather than an escalation, of tensions.
“This is a sample of what is to come if we stand idly in silence,” she said. “Therefore, we call upon all the freedom-loving and peace-loving forces across the world to further their efforts to organize public opinion against [the] escalation of tensions and lethal conflicts in the region.”
Among the 176 passengers who were killed when Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 crashed, a number had ties to Manitoba.
Amirhossein Bahabadi Ghorbani
Mohammad Mahdi Sadeghi