With red roses, candles and painful memories, the University of Toronto community marked the third anniversary of the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 at a ceremony on the St. George campus this week.
The flight was shot down by Iranian armed forces on Jan. 8, 2020, killing all 176 aboard.
The victims included eight U of T community members: Mohammad Amin Jebelli; siblings Mohammad Asadi Lari and Zeynab Asadi Lari; Mohammad Salehe and spouse Zahra Hasani; Mohammad Mahdi Elyasi; Mojtaba Abbasnezhad; and Mohammad Amin Beiruti.
The families of the victims of Flight PS752 held photos of their loved ones (photo by Polina Teif)
Patricia Houston, vice-dean, medical education, at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, said (Mohammad) Asadi Lari and Jebelli, who both studied in the faculty, had a tremendous impact on their classmates and teachers.
“Mohammad Asadi Lari or ‘Moh’ as we called him was known to his friends as a very energetic and authentic student,” she said at the event held Wednesday evening at the Earth Sciences Centre.
“He was involved, even before he came to Temerty Medicine, in many national and international initiatives, and he was passionate about helping others and youth empowerment.”
Red roses and candles were displayed to honour the 176 victims (photo by Polina Teif)
Asadi Lari was named valedictorian posthumously by the MD/PhD graduates in Temerty’s Faculty of Medicine last June.
His sister, Zeynab, was a U of T Mississauga student with a strong admiration for medicine and global health. Abbasnezhad, meanwhile, studied in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering. Hasani was looking forward to pursuing her graduate studies at U of T. Elyasi was a mechanical engineer who helped teach English to refugees. Beiruti and Salehe both studied computer science in the Faculty of Arts & Science.
Clockwise from top left: Mohammad Salehe, Zahra Hasani, Mojtaba Abbasnezhad, Mohammad Asadi Lari, Mohammad Mahdi Elyasi, Mohammad Amin Jebelli, Mohammad Amin Beiruti and Zeynab Asadi Lari.
The names and ages of everyone onboard the flight were read as their photos were projected on a big screen.
The U of T Students for a Free Iran (UTSFI) organized the ceremony to honour the victims and demand accountability for the tragedy.
“A plane with 176 innocent lives was shot down by a government that does not hold any regard for human life or human dignity and this crime cannot be forgotten,” said Faraz Khoshbakhtian, a PhD student in the department of mechanical and industrial engineering in the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering and member of UTSFI.
“These lives on the plane were all part of our community.”
Some families of the victims were in attendance and made speeches to commemorate their loved ones.
Alexie Tcheuyap, associate vice-president and vice-provost, international student experience, delivers remarks at the ceremony (photo by Polina Teif)
Alexie Tcheuyap, associate vice-president and vice-provost, international student experience, said he was honoured to be at the event to reflect on the lives lost aboard Flight PS752.
“Across the university, the news was met with sorrow and shock at such a terrible and senseless tragedy,” he said. “Together we mourn the deaths of the U of T students.”
In the memory of the victims, U of T established the Iranian Student Memorial Scholarship fund in 2020 to support international students from Iran or current students from any background taking Iranian studies.
The attendees comforted each other throughout the somber ceremony (photo by Polina Teif)
Melanie Woodin, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science, said those onboard the doomed airliner “had their lives ahead of them.”
“At the Faculty of Arts & Science, we’ve always had a special relationship and connection with students from the Iranian community,” said Woodin.
“That day, two of our computer science PhD students – Mohammad Amin Beiruti and Mohammad Salehe – lost their lives. It was heartbreaking and difficult to come to terms with the fact that these promising young minds full of ambition and vigour are no longer able to fulfill their dreams.”