When Iran made a “human error” and shot down a Ukrainian airliner last month, killing all 176 on board, including 57 Canadians, it was not only the victims’ families that felt a surreal sense of shock.
At least 19 Canadian universities across the country lost professors, researchers and students.
“When Flight 752 was shot down, Canadian schools lost some of their best and brightest,” a headline mourned this week.
Across Canada, universities flew flags at half-mast to honor the dead.
The University of Alberta alone was reeling as 10 people associated with it died in the Jan. 8 disaster.
They included Saba Saadat, a biology student.
“She was a Ph.D. disguised as an undergraduate,” said Professor Meghan Riddell through a veil of tears. “That girl could think.”
Saadat died along with her sister, who was a psychology graduate, and their mother, a medical doctor.
Another victim was Nasim Rahmanifar, a mechanical engineering student doing graduate work targeted to improve wheelchairs and reduce the number who experienced medical problems such as shoulder injuries.
“Her research could have affected people’s lives all over the world,” said Hossein Rouhani, an assistant professor who oversaw Rahmanifar’s graduate work.
“Myself and her co-supervisor are in shock.”
People are outraged over an accident that should never have happened.
The grief-stricken husband of a victim flew to Iran to bury his wife alongside her father.
Hassan Shadkhoo said he wants Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to label the disaster an act of terrorism and have the guilty parties face justice at the International Criminal Court.
“Will the prime minister of Canada vow to do this no matter who the perpetrators are?” he said.
Meanwhile, an audio surfaced over the weekend that proves Iranian officials knew immediately that they had shot down the plane. For days, Iran said it was not them, then confessed that it was indeed Iranian missiles that blew up the plane.
The leaked audio was played last Sunday on Ukrainian television, and Iran said it would no longer share evidence of the crash with Ukraine because the recording was aired on TV.
On Wednesday, however, Iran abruptly changed course again and said it would continue to work with Ukraine.
Canada has asked allies to put pressure on Iran to give the black boxes from the downed airliner to France to extract the information. Iran does not have the technology to do so.