Members of Saskatoon’s Iranian community grieved Friday night at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S), where a vigil honouring the 176 lives lost in the Jan. 8 crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 took place.
The names and pictures of the dead were played on a screen at the vigil. Over the music, one could hear the sobbing of onlookers.
Shahab Minaei came to Saskatoon roughly a year ago and is a member of the Iranian Student Council at the U of S.
“We are all together here to express our sadness with this tragedy and express our sympathy to the families of victims,” Minaei said.
“Our hearts are in Iran with you. We just want to express that we are sharing the sadness with you.”
The Iranian student said the flight that went down is the same one he would have taken to come study in Canada. He feels like it just as easily could have been him.
“It’s really, really tough work to us to come here and we’re just seeking peace to establish our lives, so when you get this kind of shocking news, everything is ruined and just collapsed,” Minaei said.
There is a sense of kinship amid the tragedy, he said.
“There are students the same as me. We are students here. So I feel much more compassion and … much more sympathy with those students and their families.”
The crash of Flight 752, just outside Tehran, affected universities across Canada, and many of the victims were Iranian academics.
One of them was Marzieh (Mari) Foroutan, a widely-published PhD student conducting climate change research. The late student worked with academics around the globe, according to her supervisor.
She was part of the U of S Global Water Futures (GWF) program at the University of Saskatchewan. On Thursday, the GWF tweeted, “we’ve lost a wonderful person and a promising young scientist.”
Foroutan was a member of the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo, where her studies focused on small lake systems in southern Ontario.
“Her specific expertise was on water temperature and water quality,” according to a statement from Claude Duguay, Foroutan’s supervisor. He is also a professor of geography and environmental management at the University of Waterloo.
Duguay said the late researcher had established a lake observatory to conduct her work. She was developing “state-of-the-art methods” that included field sensors, drone technology and numerical models.
The goal was to “measure, monitor and predict surface temperature, thermal structure, ice cover and water quality of the lake with climate warming.”
Along with her PhD studies, Foroutan worked with international partners to look at similarities between Earth and Mars, including sand ridges on Mars and massive ripples in deserts of Iran and Libya.
The University of Waterloo scheduled a private gathering to remember Foroutan on Friday. University officials are developing a memorial next week for her and Mansour Esfahani, another Waterloo student who died in the Ukrainian International Airlines crash.