The University of Victoria will be joining post-secondary institutions across Canada in commemorating the lives of 176 people who died in the Ukrainian Airlines plane crash in Tehran last week.
The crash, which is now confirmed to have been caused by an Iranian surface-to-air missile, killed all of its passengers, the majority of whom were headed to Canada as their final destination.
Ukrainian International Airlines officially released the list of passengers on the flight on Friday, confirming that at least 15 of the deceased were residents of British Columbia.
Among them was Roja Omidbakhsh, a 23-year-old first-year student enrolled in the Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria.
One of Omidbaksh’s professors from her first semester at UVic remembers her as a mature, positive student who had a presence in his commerce class.
“Roja was very positive and had a keen interest in marketing. She was on the pathway to complete a bachelor of commerce,” said Professor Mark Colgate.
“Our university community is in mourning at the terrible toll this tragedy has taken. The loss is felt on our campus, across our country and around the world,” added UVic President Jamie Cassels in a statement.
The University community will be observing a moment of silence at 10 a.m. PST on Wednesday, January 15th, alongside institutions across Canada.
According to a statement from UVic, nearly one-third of the plane crash victims were students, faculty, researchers, and alumni of Canadian colleges and universities.
“We think of each person—full of potential, aspirations and curiosity. Each was making a difference, changing lives and improving our world,” reads a notice from Universities Canada.
“Their stories show we are profoundly interconnected as a community, and we will forever cherish their memory.”
Background and update
82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians, and others from Sweden, Afghanistan, Germany, and the UK perished in the Ukrainian Airlines Boeing 737-800 plane crash on Wednesday, January 8th.
In his original statement quoted in Iranian news agency ISNA, the head of Iran’s of Civil Aviation Organization, Ali Abedzade, denied reports that the airplane was hit by an Iranian missile.
“Scientifically, it is impossible that a missile hit the Ukrainian plane, and such rumors are illogical,” ISNA quoted Abedzadeh.
However when North American intelligence and media reports showed a missile hitting the aircraft in mid-air just minutes after take-off, it triggered protests and calls for transparency from the government in Tehran and other Iranian cities.
Shortly afterwards, the Iranian military took responsibility for the attack, stating that an air defence operator had mistaken the UIA plane for a U.S. cruise missile.
According to the latest Globe and Mail report, several people in Iran have been arrested in connection with the incident over the past 72 hours and investigations are under way after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called it an “unforgivable error”.
On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Global News, “I think 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 about the recent tensions between the US and Iran.
This statement was reported by Iranian media shortly afterwards.