As the repatriation process begins for those killed in the tragic crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, Dalhousie University students have come up with a creative way to keep the memories of those loved ones alive.
The Dalhousie Iranian Student Society is fundraising for an Iranian Memorial Bursary in honour of the 176 people killed on the Ukraine passenger plane, downed by an Iranian missile strike near Tehran on Jan. 8.
Five of the victims had ties to Nova Scotia — Masoumeh Ghavi, an engineering student at Dalhousie University, and her sister, Mandieh Ghavi; Halifax dentist Dr. Sharieh Faghihi; and Maryam Malek and Fatemeh Mahmoodi, financial management students at Saint Mary’s University.
“The least thing we could do is raise some funds because we couldn’t really raise funds for the families, because the loss the of their children and loved ones is something they can never be compensated for,” said Sadra Jamshidi, president of the Dalhousie Iranian Student Society.
“This would be a way to keep the memories of the victims alive and also provide a small help to the international students.”
The student group collected donations at a vigil outside the Halifax Central Library on Wednesday evening. Dozens sang Iranian music, shared coffee and sweets, and placed candles next to white roses at the foot of tables holding images of the five Nova Scotians killed in the crash.
Dalhousie University donated $25,000 to kick-start the bursary, which has also seen an additional $4,000 raised online. The bursary will be awarded each year on the anniversary of the tragedy to an Iranian international student attending the school.
“We’re really overwhelmed by the amount of support we’ve received,” said Jamshidi.
Iranian-Canadian Roshanak Sadeghi-Zadeh attended the vigil on Wednesday. She knew all of the Nova Scotian victims through cultural events in the city, and described them as “talented, dedicated people” who contributed to the Canadian community that had given so much to them.
“It is very important to remember the lost loved ones because that’s the voice of an innocent people, that’s the voice that we can to continue to remember,” Sadeghi-Zadeh told Global News.
“Their story is our story.”
Mino Mirzaei, a political science student at Mount Saint Vincent University, said Canadians can honour the friends she lost in the tragedy by showing solidarity with one another.
“We need to be more united than ever, just have each other’s backs and make sure we honour the lives that were taken from these innocent people,” she explained.
“And enjoy our lives and also do something that changes this. Something like this should never happen again.”
Of the 176 victims killed in the missile strike, 57 were Canadian citizens and 29 were permanent residents. More than 80 of the passengers were Iranian and many appear to have held dual citizenship.
Canada is among several countries that lost citizens on board that aircraft that have organized an international response group to coordinate their push for answers into the disaster.
That includes the demand that Iran compensate the families of the victims and that it hand over the black boxes for analysis.
The Canadian government also said last week it will give $25,000 to the family of each Canadian victim as a form of interim compensation to cover the costs of travel back and forth to Iran as well as paying their bills in the aftermath of the tragedy.
— With files from Amanda Connolly