Day: January 13, 2020

2020 Democratic race is wide open in Iowa as caucuses near

DES MOINES, Iowa — Presidential candidates have swarmed Iowa’s rolling landscape for more than a year, making their pitch to potential supporters on campuses, county fairgrounds and in high school gymnasiums. But three weeks before the caucuses usher in the Democratic contest, the battle for the state is wide open.

A cluster of candidates, including Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, along with former Vice-President Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, enter the final stretch with a plausible chance of winning Iowa’s caucuses. A poll released Friday by The Des Moines Register and CNN found them all with similar levels of support.

For two decades, Iowa has had a solid record of backing the ultimate Democratic nominee. A clear victory in its caucuses next month could set the tone for the races that follow in New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

But an inconclusive result or one in which several candidates are bunched together near the top could preview a long, brutal fight ahead. Some Democrats fear the question of a nominee might not be resolved until the party convenes in Milwaukee this summer to formally declare its candidate to take on President Donald Trump.

The unusually fluid dynamic raises the stakes for the leading candidates heading into Tuesday’s debate, which will be the final televised gathering for the White House hopefuls before the caucuses. Their closing arguments in Iowa could be complicated by Trump’s impeachment trial, which would require senators in the race to return to Washington. And the fallout from Trump’s surprise decision to launch a strike last week to kill a top Iranian general could steal attention that would otherwise centre on the presidential race.

It’s against that backdrop that candidates must win over people like Barb Cameron, a 76-year-old who attended a recent Warren event in the river town of Burlington.

“I’m undecided,” she said. “I want to vote for a woman. But, more than that, I want to vote for someone with real leadership capability.”

“I like Pete, though I don’t know enough,” Cameron added. “And I don’t think Biden can beat Trump.”

If other voters agree, Biden’s candidacy could face steep headwinds in Iowa. The former vice-president began as the early favourite, in large part because of a sense that he is best positioned to defeat Trump. If that falters, the central rationale for his campaign risks being undermined.

Biden faces a far more favourable climate in later contests, especially South Carolina, where support from black voters has given him a substantial lead over his rivals.

And the focus on global affairs after the Iranian conflict could lift Biden, who built a resume over decades in Washington as a leading voice on foreign policy. JoAnn Hardy, chair of the Cerro Gordo County Democrats in northern Iowa, said a shift in voter focus would be an advantage.

But even that prediction came with a caveat.

“I think there’s a lot of support, but for most people it’s not enthusiastic support,” Hardy said. “It’s like, we’ve gotta do what we’ve gotta do to beat Trump.”

While Biden is positioning himself as a steady hand in the face of international instability, the Iranian episode also leaves an opening for Sanders to draw a sharp contrast with Biden over the Iraq War, which Sanders opposed. The Vermont senator is drawing sharper contrasts with Biden as he tries to appeal to some of the white, working-class voters, particularly in rural areas, that Sanders’ advisers believe may be open to his message of taking on the rich and powerful.

Without naming him, Sanders kept pressure on Biden Sunday, reminding a forum in Davenport that he opposed the 2002 authorization for military force in Iraq.

“In 2002, I helped lead the effort against the war in Iraq, which turned out to be the worst foreign policy blunder in the modern history of America,” Sanders said. “The war in Iraq was based on a series of lies.”

Sanders’ campaign volunteers have reportedly been instructed to tell voters that are leaning toward Warren that her supporters are “highly educated, more affluent people” and that she’s failing to expand her support. Those tactics brought a rare broadside against the senator from Warren, who said Sunday that she was “disappointed” in Sanders and suggested he’s too divisive to defeat Trump.

Still, Sanders’ position in Iowa is improving and he’s attracting large crowds. His campaign says he spoke to nearly 6,000 people across 16 events in the state earlier this month.

But some Sanders supporters say they want to see the senator’s team more active on the ground in Iowa. Suzanne Costello, a farmer from Kellogg, Iowa, is a longtime Sanders supporter and volunteer, knocking on doors in Powesheik County, a county the senator won in 2016.

“I think they mis-gauged the trajectory of the race,” she said. “I don’t think they came out in force enough in our area soon enough, so now I feel like we’re kind of playing catch-up” in organizing.

Costello said she had complained to the Sanders campaign for months about the lack of resources in her area, and now she feels they’re finally sending more staff and resources to help knock on doors.

Indeed, Sanders’ campaign says they have one of the biggest teams in Iowa, with more than 250 staffers on the ground and 23 offices across the state. That significant staff footprint coupled with the consistently large crowds has Sanders’ advisers privately predicting victory in Iowa.

Warren’s campaign is still seen as one of the most seasoned and best-organized in the state, as she’s had organizers holding intimate local events with potential caucusgoers across Iowa for nearly a year. Her aides will only disclose that they have more than 100 paid staff and more than 20 offices in Iowa, but most operatives on the ground believe her team is nearly twice that, as Warren staffers are constantly seen at local party events and out knocking on doors. On a cold Sunday morning, with snow blanketing the ground, she turned out around 300 people to an elementary school gymnasium in Marshalltown.

There, she was introduced by former Housing Secretary Julian Castro, who endorsed her last week after exiting the presidential race. He made an electability pitch, arguing that Warren “can unify Democrats to beat Donald Trump.”

Buttigieg has also assembled a robust statewide organization that puts him in a strong position for someone who was virtually unknown nationally a year ago. He consistently draws larger crowds than his rivals who have been in politics for decades.

Since September, the 37-year-old Buttigieg — touting a message of generational change, civility and Midwestern pragmatism — has been drawing a significant share of first-time caucusgoers into his ranks, including about a third of the 50 caucus leaders who turned out in Ottumwa for caucus training Thursday evening.

Despite the hopeful tone and intellectual depth, Buttigieg has struggled with some in his own generation looking for more overhaul in Washington than the moderate from Indiana espouses.

“I really like his temperament and his style,” said Parthi Kandavel, a Des Moines middle school teacher who recently travelled to Burlington with his wife, Anu, to see Buttigieg. “My concern is his commitment to addressing income inequality.”

And though Iowa’s population is 90 per cent white, Buttigieg’s struggle to attract support from minority voters has crept into his Iowa campaign. During a rally Sunday in Des Moines, Black Lives Matter supporters interrupted Buttigieg, shouting and chanting, before being escorted out by police.

In another warning sign for Buttigieg, he dropped 9 percentage points from November in the Register/CNN Iowa poll.

Still, the final weeks of the caucus campaign are often marked by unpredictability: Candidate support is known to shift even in the final days before the caucuses, and the polling leader three weeks out is by no means assured a win.

That leaves room for an unexpected candidate to break ahead. Sen. Cory Booker is continuing to campaign feverishly in Iowa, and while his campaign leadership is seen as one of the strongest on the ground, he remains far behind his opponents in polling and staffing numbers.

It’s Sen. Amy Klobuchar who has Iowa political operatives taking notice. In recent weeks, she’s attracted growing crowds and a fundraising surge that helped her invest in her operation in Iowa. She now has more than 100 staffers on the ground, and 19 field offices across the state — fewer than most of the top-tier candidates, but a healthy infusion at a key time.

But it remains to be seen whether Klobuchar’s late investment can compete with the seasoned staffers of campaigns like Warren’s and even Booker’s, which have been organizing supporters for months in Iowa.

“Now, their challenge is how you take these people that are now seriously kicking Klobuchar’s tires and turn them into precinct captains and have them help recruit other people for you,” said veteran Iowa Democratic Party operative Jeff Link, who is unaffiliated with any campaign. “I think she can.”

Thomas Beaumont And Alexandra Jaffe, The Associated Press

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AP News in Brief at 12:04 a.m. EST

Esper says he’s seen no hard evidence embassies under threat

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defence Secretary Mark Esper explicitly said Sunday that he had seen no hard evidence that four American embassies had been under possible threat when President Donald Trump authorized the targeting of Iran’s top commander, raising questions about the scale of the threat described by Trump last week.

As the administration struggled with its justification for the drone strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Esper and other officials tried to refocus attention on voices of dissent in Iran.

Esper said street protests in Tehran show the Iranian people are hungry for a more accountable government after leaders denied, then admitted shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane. The plane was downed shortly after Iran launches strikes against US bases in Iraq in retaliation for Soleimani’s killing.

“You can see the Iranian people are standing up and asserting their rights, their aspirations for a better government — a different regime,” Esper said. He appeared on two Sunday news shows while national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, was interviewed on three others — pressing the White House’s campaign to bring “maximum pressure” on Tehran to change its behaviour.

O’Brien suggested the United States sees this moment as an opportunity to further intensify pressure on Iran’s leaders, with whom the U.S. has been at odds for four decades. Iran’s leaders already are under enormous strain from economic sanctions that have virtually strangled Iran’s main source of income — oil exports.


As trial nears, Trump keeps discredited Ukraine theory alive

The theory took root in vague form well before Donald Trump laid claim to the White House in 2016. The candidate’s close confidant tweeted about it. His campaign chairman apparently spoke about it with people close to him.

What if, the idea went, it was actually Ukraine — and not Russia — that was interfering in the 2016 election?

Never mind that the notion has since been amplified by the president of Russia, the country that U.S. intelligence agencies unequivocally blame for interfering in that year’s presidential race. Or that Trump’s hand-picked FBI director and other American officials have said there’s no information pointing to Ukraine interference. Or that 25 Russians stand charged in U.S. courts with hacking into Democratic emails and waging a covert social media campaign to sway American public opinion.

The Ukraine theory lives on.

Now, Trump’s request for Ukraine to investigate the matter and a political rival, former Vice-President Joe Biden, is at the heart of a congressional inquiry that produced Trump’s impeachment by the House of Representatives. A Senate trial is next.


Defying police, Iranians protest over plane shootdown

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iranian demonstrators defied a heavy police presence Sunday night to protest their country’s days of denials that it shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane carrying 176 people, the latest unrest to roil the capital amid soaring tensions with the United States.

Videos posted online showed protesters shouting anti-government slogans and moving through subway stations and sidewalks, many around Azadi, or Freedom, Square after an earlier call for people to demonstrate there. Other videos suggested similar protests were taking place in other Iranian cities.

Protesters often wore hoods and covered their faces, probably to avoid being recognized by surveillance cameras. Some online videos purported to show police firing tear gas sporadically, though there was no immediate wholesale crackdown on demonstrators.

Meanwhile, in an emotional speech before parliament, the head of the Revolutionary Guard apologized for the shootdown and insisted it was a tragic mistake.

“I swear to almighty God that I wished I was on that plane and had crashed with them and burned but had not witnessed this tragic incident,” said Gen. Hossein Salami. “I have never been this embarrassed in my entire life. Never.”


Trump, Pelosi square off ahead of impeachment trial

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi squared off Sunday ahead of his impeachment trial, as she said senators will “pay a price” for blocking new witnesses and he quickly retorted that she and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff should both testify.

The House plans to vote this week to transmit the articles of impeachment to the Senate for the historic trial on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress over Trump’s actions toward Ukraine. It will be only the third presidential impeachment trial in American history and could start this week.

Trump and Pelosi, the two most powerful party leaders in the nation, communicated as often happens in this presidency — with the president responding on Twitter to a television interview.

“It’s about a fair trial,” Pelosi told ABC’s “This Week.” “We’ve done our job. We have defended the Constitution of the United States. We would hope the Senate would do that as well.”

She warned, “Now the ball is in their court to either do that or pay a price.”


Lava gushes from Philippine volcano as ash spreads to Manila

TAGAYTAY, Philippines (AP) — Red-hot lava gushed out of a Philippine volcano Monday after a sudden eruption of ash and steam that forced villagers to flee and shut down Manila’s international airport, offices and schools.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or major damage from Taal volcano’s eruption south of the capital that began Sunday. But clouds of ash blew more than 100 kilometres (62 miles) north, reaching the bustling capital, Manila, and forcing the shutdown of the country’s main airport with more than 240 international and domestic flights cancelled so far.

An alternative airport north of Manila at Clark freeport remained open but authorities would shut it down too if ashfall threatens flights, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said.

The government’s disaster-response agency reported about 8,000 villagers have moved to at least 38 evacuation centres in the hard-hit province of Batangas and nearby Cavite province, but officials expect the number to swell with hundreds of thousands more being brought out of harm’s way. Some residents could not move out of ash-blanketed villages due to a lack of transport and poor visibility. Some refused to leave their homes and farms, officials said.

“We have a problem, our people are panicking due to the volcano because they want to save their livelihood, their pigs and herds of cows,” Mayor Wilson Maralit of Balete town told DZMM radio. “We’re trying to stop them from returning and warning that the volcano can explode again anytime and hit them.”


12 shot, five dead, in single day of shootings in Baltimore

BALTIMORE (AP) — Authorities say 12 people were shot, five of them fatally, in eight separate weekend shootings in Baltimore.

The first of Saturday’s shootings was reported at about 2:30 a.m. and involved three female victims, all found with apparent gunshot wounds in a car in a northeastern section of the city. One victim, a 28-year-old woman, died shortly after arriving at a hospital.

A few hours later, police responding to a shooting in southeast Baltimore found a 46-year-old man with a gunshot wound to the leg. Then, a second shooting victim, a 40-year-old man, walked into a hospital seeking treatment for a gunshot wound to his leg.

Shortly after 2:30 p.m. Saturday, police found a man fatally shot in southeast Baltimore. That was followed less than half an hour later by a shooting in central Baltimore that left a 37-year-old man wounded.

A 38-year-old man was found with a gunshot wound around 7 p.m. Saturday in northeast Baltimore.


AP Analysis: Taiwan vote signals growing divide with China

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — The landslide reelection of Taiwan’s leader underscores the population’s embrace of an identity distinct from China — a shift that the communist leaders of China refuse to accept.

It’s a contradiction that will keep the island of 23 million people at odds with its much larger neighbour for the foreseeable future and put increasing strains on the one-China principle, which holds that Taiwan and China are part of one country.

President Tsai Ing-wen swept to a second four-year term Saturday with 57% of the vote. Her opponent, Han Kuo-yu, tallied 39%. The results soundly rejected the China-friendly views of his Nationalist Party, which has struggled to adapt to the emergence and evolution of a Taiwanese identity.

The question for the next four years is whether the governments on both sides of the 160-kilometre- (100-mile-) wide Taiwan Strait will stay the course or escalate their battle of wills.

China may step up its campaign to try to isolate Taiwan both diplomatically and economically, though it may also be rethinking that approach after efforts to do so during Tsai’s first term only seemed to build support for her at home.


Queen prepares for royal family summit over Harry and Meghan

LONDON (AP) — Ensconced with aides at her royal retreat, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II prepared Sunday for a crisis family meeting to work out a future for Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan, after their dramatic decision to walk away from royal roles.

Well-wishers cheered the monarch as she made her weekly trip to a church at her Sandringham estate in eastern England. Meanwhile, supporters of the royal family’s feuding factions used the British media to paint conflicting pictures of who was to blame for the rift.

Royal officials said the queen had summoned her grandson Harry, his elder brother Prince William and their father Prince Charles to Sandringham, 100 miles (160 kilometres) north of London, for a meeting on Monday.

The summit reflects the queen’s desire to contain the fallout from Harry and Meghan’s decision to “step back” as senior royals, work to become financially independent and split their time between Britain and North America. The couple, also known as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, made the announcement Wednesday without telling the queen or other senior royals first.

William is expected to travel to Sandringham from London and Harry from his home in Windsor, west of the British capital. Charles will fly back from the Gulf nation of Oman, where he was attending a condolence ceremony Sunday following the death of Sultan Qaboos bin Said.


Oscar nominations are Monday morning: Here’s what to expect

Who will be celebrating Oscar morning? Brad Pitt for sure. Jennifer Lopez almost certainly. And very possibly the Obamas, too.

Nominations for the 92nd Academy Awards, which will begin at 8:18 a.m. EST Monday, should bring plenty of star power to the Feb. 9 ceremony — a good thing, too, since the show will for the second straight year go without a host.

Thankfully, this Oscar year isn’t lacking for drama. Netflix is gunning for its first best picture win, a year after Alfonso Cuaron’s “Roma” fell just short. It has not just one but at least two contenders led by Martin Scorsese’s elegiac crime epic “The Irishman” and Noah Baumbach’s intimate divorce drama “Marriage Story.”

But in the lead up to Monday’s nominations, much of the momentum has gone to a pair of movies that exalt the big screen with showmanship and celebrity: Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” with Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, and Sam Mendes’ continuous World War I thrill ride, “1917.” Hollywood, in the midst of a streaming upheaval, has so far favoured the traditionally released movies.

Still, no definite front-runner has emerged, and nominations morning could tip the scales anew in a rapid-paced awards season that, while not lacking for the usual battery of parties, screenings and Q&As, is more condensed than usual.


Packers hold off Seahawks 28-23 to reach NFC title game

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers have relied more on character and resilience than offence or defence this season, lagging well behind past editions in esthetics.

This divisional round win over Seattle, though, was a vintage Rodgers performance. He helped the Packers pull within a game of the Super Bowl with an array of clutch completions at the most critical of moments.

Rodgers connected with Davante Adams eight times for 160 yards and two touchdowns, Green Bay’s spruced-up defence fended off a spirited Seahawks rally, and the Packers held on for a 28-23 victory Sunday night to reach the NFC championship game for the third time in six years.

“It’s one of those feelings that starts to creep up in warmups, when you really feel like you’re locked in,” Rodgers said, “and I was glad it translated to the field.”

Aaron Jones rushed for 62 yards and two first-half scores for the Packers (14-3), who will travel next weekend to take on top-seeded San Francisco. Rodgers, who went 16 for 27 for 243 yards in his 17th career post-season start, Rodgers has 38 touchdown passes in the playoffs. That’s good for fifth in league history.

The Associated Press

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A look at some of the victims of the Iran plane crash who had roots in Canada

Dozens of people with ties to Canada were among the 176 who were killed when Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 crashed after takeoff near Tehran, Iran.

Here is a look at some of the victims with ties to Canada:


Masoumeh Ghavi and Mahdieh Ghavi

Ali Nafarieh, who teaches computer networking part time at Dalhousie and is president of the Iranian Cultural Society of Nova Scotia, said he got to know 30-year-old Masoumeh Ghavi after she was admitted to the university’s internetworking program as a graduate student in September.

“She was full of energy,” he said. “You couldn’t believe how much energy someone can have.”

Impressed with her information technology background, Nafarieh hired her to work part time at his information technology firm, Halifax-based Hanatech Solutions.

“She changed the atmosphere. Always a smile, a beautiful smile.”

Nafarieh said Ghavi was on her way back to Halifax with her younger sister, Mahdieh, 20, who was expected to start medical school at Dalhousie later this year, he said.

“To me, it’s not just a disaster for the Iranian community …. It is also a national disaster for Canada.”

Maryam Malek and Fatemeh Mahmoodi

At Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, officials confirmed two students were listed on the jet’s passenger list.

Maryam Malek and Fatemeh Mahmoodi were students in the master’s of finance program, said Colin Dodds, the program’s academic director and the university’s former president.

“I knew them very well,” said Dodds, who noted he had taught them in November and December and had stayed in touch with the pair during the holiday break.

The intense, 12-month program is aimed at helping students establish a career in the financial services sector.

“To celebrate the fact that it was the end of the first semester … they were going home to see parents and family,” Dodds said. “It’s a huge loss.”

Malek was in her early 40s and Mahmoodi was in her early 30s. Both spoke three languages.

Sharieh Faghihi

Sharieh Faghihi, a Halifax dentist, was an “absolute joy,” said LJ Turnbull, regional manager for Dentalcorp, who confirmed she was on the plane.

“One of the kindest human beings,” said Turnbull.  “She had a fantastic sense of humour and she was great with the patients … She was friends with everybody on the team.”

Turnbull, who spoke to Faghihi’s family after the crash, said the dentist taught part time at Dalhousie University. A brief profile on a Dalhousie website said Faghihi was married with two children.

Another colleague, dentist Ebrahim Kiani, said he first met Faghihi 25 years ago when she was head of the periodontics department at the Shiraz University of Medical Science in Iran.

“She was very kind, very generous with her knowledge and very skilled,” Kiani said. “She was published in many journals … She was a good mentor for me.”


Shahab Raana

Montrealer Shahab Raana left behind a successful career in Iran to come to Canada for a better future, his close friend Hamidreza Zanedi said.

Zanedi, who first met Raana about 15 years ago in Iran, said his friend posted a selfie from the plane on an Iranian messaging app just before takeoff. He said his friends in Iran have also been in touch with Raana’s family members, who are in a “state of shock and sorrow.”

Zanedi said Raana had a good job in Iran as a quality control manager, and was taking courses in Montreal to improve his language skills and gain Canadian work experience.

He’d booked a trip back to Iran without telling his family because he wanted to surprise them, Zanedi said.

“I can’t even imagine his face without a smile on it,” he said.

Arvin Morattab and Aida Farzaneh

Montreal’s Ecole de Technologie Superieure confirmed a married couple, Arvin Morattab and Aida Farzaneh, were among the dead.

Both had studied for PhDs at the school, and Farzaneh was lecturing in construction engineering.

“All the ETS community offers its most sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of Ms. Farzanah and Mr. Morattab, as well as to their teachers and colleagues,” the school wrote in a statement.

The school said their deaths were confirmed by Canada’s consular emergency assistance centre.


Shahrokh Eghbali Bazoft, Maryam Agha Miri and Shahzad Eghbali Bazoft

Shahrokh Eghbali Bazoft, his wife Maryam Agha Miri and their eight-year-old daughter Shahzad Eghbali Bazoft lived in Toronto and all died together, said Sharokh’s niece, Nadia Eghbali.

Eghbali said her uncle was a kind soul and a charismatic person.

“It was really hard not to like him because he was so kind. He had the best stories with funny voices and expressions that he would make,” said Eghbali, on the phone from Chicago. “He had everyone laughing including himself.”

“Maryam was a kind person, a devoted mother, wife and friend,” Eghbali said. “She always made us feel welcome, she made you feel loved.”

Eghbali said Shahzad had a creative mind.

“She had a great giggle and she just meant so much to her parents,” she said.

“They were a wonderful family and they’ll be truly missed.”

Mojtaba Abbasnezhad

The University of Toronto confirmed student Mojtaba Abbasnezhad died in the plane crash.

A spokesman for the school said staff cross-referenced information contained on a passenger flight manifest with student records and confirmed with people who knew the students.

Abbasnezhad’s friend Pooya Pooland said the 26-year-old had “just started his PhD with many dreams.”

“It’s sad and shocking,” Pooland said. “I still can’t believe he’s not here among us.”

University president Meric Gertler said in a statement that the school was continuing to gather information and the crash left many in their community devastated.

“We are all heartbroken,” Gertler said.

Pedram Jadidi

Pedram Jadidi was in Iran to mark the first anniversary of his father’s death, his friend Mehran Eshaghi told a memorial service.

Jadidi had moved to Canada to study civil engineering at the University of Windsor shortly after his dad died and he went home to be with his family.

“Who would have thought this was going to be his last farewell to his mother?” Eshaghi asked. “Who would believe this beautiful family would lose a father and son in a year?”

Eshaghi said his friend was a strong student and more.

“He demonstrated to be an exceptional, enthusiastic researcher,” he said. “Outside of work space, Pedram was known by all of us as an approachable friend. He was a keen lover of movies, music and sport and was a skilled graphic designer.”

Jadidi’s PhD supervisor Shaohong Cheng said Jadidi was a promising young scientist.

“He brought all his passion, his expertise, to my group, to my lab,” Cheng said, recounting how Jadidi and a colleague had created a wind tunnel experiment.

“I still remember that moment when Pedram and his partner came to my office and proudly showed me the video of that test,” she said. “We were so excited. We cheered together for this milestone in my research group.”

Sahand Sadeghi, Sophie Emami, Alvand Sadeghi and Negar Borghei  

Vahid Emami said his wife, Sahand Sadeghi, and five-year-old daughter, Sophie Emami, died in the crash, along with his brother-in-law Alvand Sadeghi and his wife, Negar Borghei.

Emami said his wife, 39, and daughter had been visiting family. He said he was feeling a bit worried about his family travelling back home to Toronto and before their flight spoke to his brother-in-law through WhatsApp.

He said Alvand told him there were no issues with their luggage and that Sophie was with them and they would see him soon.

He said Sophie was a “strong and happy girl” and known by all of her teachers.

Davi Rezende said he worked with Alvand Sadeghi, who was a web developer in Toronto.

“He was an amazing person, very cheerful and dedicated. I’m already missing him a lot.”

Rezende said he also knew Borghei, who studied in Montreal.

Borghei’s cousin Kimia Maleki, who is in Iran, said the family is in mourning and unsure if a funeral will be held. She said relatives and friends have been coming to Borghei’s parents home to drop off flowers and offer their condolences.

“We can’t believe it,” Maleki said.

She says Borghei married Sadeghi, a professional musician and industrial engineer, in 2018 and moved to Canada. Borghei was doing a master’s in human nutrition-dietetics credentialing at McGill University in Montreal.

Niloufar Sadr

Niloufar Sadr, 61, was returning to Toronto after a visit with family in Iran.

Sadr had lived in Montreal for many years but moved to Toronto a few years ago to be closer to her adult children and grandchildren, said Elahe Machouf, a longtime friend.

She described Sadr as someone who was full of life and had managed an art gallery in Montreal.

“She was very involved in the cultural field,” Machouf said. “Recently, she moved to Toronto because her children had moved there and she followed them, as many mothers do.”

Machouf said Sadr’s father was Ahmad Sayyed Javadi, a prominent Iranian lawyer, politician and political activist, who died in 2013.

Sadr’s ex-husband Reza Banisadre, a Montreal architect, said Sadr visited Iran every year.

“She was very joyous. She had lots of friends,” Banisadre said. “She loved life.”

Sadr leaves two daughters and a son, as well as three grandchildren.

Sheyda Shadkhoo

Sheyda Shadkhoo, 41, was a chemist who worked as a control substance co-ordinator at SGS Corp. in Markham, Ont., a Swiss company that helps inspect, test and verify that products on the market meet various government standards.

Her husband, Hassan Shadkhoo, said his wife phoned him Wednesday, just before the plane took off, because she was afraid to fly. The conflict between Iran and the United States and the missile attacks had alarmed her.

He said he is gutted that he reassured his wife it would be OK. Twenty minutes after they got off the phone, the plane crashed.

“I wasn’t there,” he said, sobbing. “I should have been there with her.”

The couple was married for 10 years. Sheyda was in Iran to visit her mother.

Iman Aghabali and Mehdi Eshaghian

McMaster University released a statement that said it believed two of its students, Iman Aghabali and Mehdi Eshaghian, were among the victims.

The school said Aghabali and Eshaghian were both PhD students in the faculty of engineering.

“McMaster is a tightly knit community and there will be many faculty, staff, colleagues, friends and fellow students who need our support and caring at this tragic time,” said president David Farrar.

The McMaster Iranian Student Association also paid tribute to the two.

“Mehdi and Iman were two kind souls who always celebrated Iranian traditions with our community,” the association said.

“It is devastating for the entire McMaster community to hear the painful passing of young students who left behind their families and motherland in hopes of a better future career.”

Ali Mazaheri said his best friend Eshaghian would have turned 25 in a week.

He said Eshaghian had been seeing friends and family and was on the flight because it was the cheapest route back to Canada.  

Mazaheri said the two last saw each other 11 days ago and went shopping, visited a teahouse and took photos. 

“When we said goodbye he told me maybe I can’t see you again, so if I can’t, goodbye,” Mazaheri said.

Ali Pey

Ali Pey, 48, was an entrepreneur and CEO of the tech startup Message Hopper in Kanata, Ont. He had two daughters and two stepdaughters.

Pey’s father in Iran had taken ill several weeks ago and Pey went to visit him, said Ayat Tadjalli, a close friend and work associate.  

When his father seemed to recover, Pey returned to Canada to spend the holidays with his children. But he got a call from his family in Iran saying his father had once again been taken to hospital.

“Ali said, ‘This time I need to go and see my father, maybe for the last time.’ And he went to visit his father in hospital,” Tadjalli said. 

He said he was in shock when he found out about the plane and saw his friend’s name on the list.

Pey’s partner, Marie, didn’t want to believe it at all, Tadjalli said. She had spoken with him just a few hours before he boarded his flight.

“She told me, ‘I’m waiting for someone to call me and tell me Ali wasn’t on that plane,’” Tadjalli said.

Tadjalli first met Pey when he started a group for Iranian parents to help foster the Persian language.

“He was really good with kids, he was really enthusiastic about playing with kids, teaching them.”

Zahra Naghibi

Zahra Naghibi was a colleague of Jacqueline Stagner at the University of Windsor. Stagner said she was informed by the head of the lab where Naghibi worked that she was on the plane.

“She was very helpful and warm,” Stagner said.

Naghibi was a part of Windsor’s Turbulence and Energy Lab, where she worked on issues related to solar energy.

Stagner said when one of her students — just starting graduate work and new to Canada — needed help, Naghibi stepped in.

“Zahra was giving her advice, helping her out, letting her learn from her own work and what she’d discovered — helping her along, the next generation of researchers. She was very welcoming.”

Hamidreza Setareh and Samira Bashiri

Hamidreza Setareh, 31, and Samira Bashiri, 29, fell in love as teenagers in Iran and had built a successful life together in Windsor, Ont., said friend Rachel Smith.

The husband and wife had been in Canada for about a year and Bashiri had just recently completed her citizenship exam. The couple — who some friends nicknamed “Sami and Hami” — were in Iran for a month-long visit with their families, Smith said.  

She said Setareh was working on his PhD in engineering, taught at the University of Windsor part time and had a dog-grooming business on the side. Bashiri worked in a lab trying to find cures for diseases.

Smith remembers them as generous and said they worked hard to raise funds for a church mission to help orphans in Kenya.

They would give without ever expecting anything in return, she said.

“They just want friendship and they just want to show their love to people,” she said. “They were blessed and they were blessings. It was really an honour knowing them.”

Smith said the couple learned English by watching the TV-sitcom “Friends” and teased him when they learned she’d never seen the show. Smith bought a “Friends” T-shirt online as a joke about a month before the crash, and it arrived in the mail the day afterwards.

She wore the shirt at a memorial at the University of Windsor.

Roja Azadian

Roja Azadian was supposed to travel to Canada for the first time with her husband, who has been studying at Algonquin College in Ottawa, but a mix-up over his ticket meant he could not get on the plane with her.

“He was thinking, I’m going to send her and then I’m going to be back on the next flight,” said Leila Hojabri, a friend of Azadian’s husband.

He called a friend in Ottawa, asking if he could pick Azadian up at the airport and ensure she was safe. Instead, her husband remains safe in Iran and she died aboard Ukraine International Airlines flight PS 752.

“She wasn’t sure if she should come to Canada and he was just building here and getting ready for her to join him and it’s just a really, really tragic story,” Hojabri said.

Fereshteh Maleki

Fereshteh Maleki came to Ottawa as a skilled worker and, despite early challenges as a single mother in a new country, Maleki had finally started to succeed, said her friend Saeideh Shabani. She recently landed a promising new job and was making plans to renovate her home. 

Her constant positivity and energetic nature was inspiring, Shabani said.

“She was a superwoman. She was a single mom. When she got her house, she did a lot of renovations in her house by herself,” Shabani said.

“When I think about how she was excited about everything here in Canada, I feel bad for her. Because for the first couple of years, when you are coming as a newcomer, it’s very hard … but after that it becomes better. And she passed all that. And when she was talking about her life, she told me four weeks ago, ‘Now it’s a good time in my life.’”

Maleki was in Iran for her daughter’s wedding. She was excited  leading up to her journey and had happily texted photos of the ceremony to friends. The pictures showed the smiling faces of Maleki and her daughter.

Shabani said Maleki and her daughter Deniz were inseparable and now her daughter is heartbroken.

Farhad Niknam

Farhad Niknam, 44, moved to Winnipeg five years ago with his wife and daughter after running a dental practice in Iran for 15 years, said Sanaz Valadi, his friend of 20 years.

About three years ago, after having a son, the family moved to Toronto. Niknam took his dental equivalency exam and began to train other foreign dentists.

He had recently settled the family in a new condominium and registered to be a dentist in Toronto.

Valadi said they spoke on the phone only three days ago and Niknam was excited to come back to Canada to start a new phase of his career. Instead, Valadi spent the hours after the crash with Niknam’s grieving wife.

Niknam and his wife, Mojgan, had been married for 15 years. Valadi said she will never forget how much they glowed as they danced at their wedding.

Now Mojgan is alone with her daughter Yana, 7, and son Yuna, 3.

Niknam’s family flew back to Iran on Wednesday to have DNA tests done so they can retrieve his body.

Marzieh (Mari) Foroutan

The director of Global Water Futures said they lost a rising star in the crash.

Marzieh (Mari) Foroutan, who was working on her PhD at the University of Waterloo, was confirmed dead in the crash by the university. John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures, said he saw Foroutan’s student ID in photos of the crash site. He was then able to confirm she had gone to Iran to visit family.

“She’s a remarkable individual,” he said, noting he met her when she was getting her master’s degree at the University of Calgary.

Foroutan was studying remote sensing and climate change as part of the Global Water Future’s Transformative Sensor Technologies and Smart Watersheds Project at the University of Waterloo.

Her supervisor, Prof. Claude Duguay, said in a statement that “Mari was a kind-hearted, passionate and brilliant researcher who cared deeply about environmental issues. She had a bright future ahead of her. She will be truly missed.”

Amir Ovaysi, Asal Ovaysi and Sara Hamzeei

Amir Ovaysi, 42, is remembered as a proud family man who would often show his colleagues videos and photos of his six-year-old daughter, Asal, and his wife, Sara Hamzeei, 34.

His manager, Troy Futher, says the three were in Iran to visit Ovaysi’s aging parents. Ovaysi left in mid-December, joining his wife and daughter, who had arrived in November. It was their first visit home since they came to Canada about two years ago.

Futher said he hired Ovaysi at his heating, ventilation and air- conditioning company, Smith Energy Inc., in June. Ovaysi had a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He worked out of the company’s Mississauga, Ont., office, but had a house in Newmarket, Ont.

“He was genuine. He was a super person — a brilliant mind, an astute student,” said Futher, who added it was heartbreaking to have to inform staff that Ovaysi and his family were on board the flight.

“A lot of the employees took it extremely hard,” he said. “It’s been a sombre day, a very difficult day.”

Hadis Hayatdavoudi

Hadis Hayatdavoudi saw beauty in things that others take for granted.

The PhD student at Western University in London, Ont., studied the effects of hydrogen on copper at the Electrochemistry and Corrosion Science Centre.  Its goal is to examine how corrosion affects nuclear waste containers.

As a byproduct of Hayatdavoudi’s research, the copper she pumped with hydrogen was melted down into tiny balls, which would normally be thrown away, her supervisor said.

“She saw beauty in these little tiny beads of copper, and she was saving them because she thought that she could maybe employ them in making jewelry or something like that. I have a little box of these things that were saved from her work,” Jamie Noel said, shaking the box so the beads clattered together. 

Noel said Hayatdavoudi had spent a month in Iran with her family — her first time back home since she moved to Canada on her own in September 2018. He said she was on the flight so she could be back in Canada in time to act as a teaching assistant for one of his courses.

“She found Canadians were very welcoming to her, coming from so far away, all by herself, a single woman in a strange country, with a different language,” said Noel, who noted that she quickly found community with other Persian students in his lab.

Parinaz Ghaderpanah and Iman Ghaderpanah

Parinaz Ghaderpanah was a branch manager at a Toronto RBC.

The bank confirmed to employees that she and her husband, Iman Ghaderpanah, were on the doomed flight. He had also worked at the bank for a time. 

In a note to bank staff, she was remembered as a strong and dedicated leader.

“She embodied the best of RBC and we were incredibly lucky to have known and worked with her for the past nine years,” the note read.

“Her presence on the ship will be sadly missed, and she will be missed dearly by her branch, the Toronto northeast market and all of the lives she touched in RBC.”

Neda Sadighi

Neda Sadighi, an optometrist with a new practice north of Toronto, was among those killed, her colleagues confirmed.

Joe Belden, who worked alongside Sadighi at Optical Eyeworks in Richmond Hill, Ont., said office staff were aware of Sadaghi’s travels to Iran and had learned of her death directly from her family members.

Belden said clinic staff were struggling to come to terms with the death of their only doctor, who he described as an amazing person.

“She was really helpful to disadvantaged people,” Belden said. “She treated everybody with respect no matter their background. She was kind all the way around.”

Alma Oladi

Alma Oladi was a PhD student studying mathematics at the University of Ottawa. Students and staff who knew her turned her desk into a makeshift memorial on Wednesday, with white flowers and cards placed next to a picture of her signature smile.

“She always had this smile on her face,” said Mohsen Zandimoghadam, who was a friend of Oladi.

“She was a nice and kind girl. She always wanted to explore places and discover new things in life and new places … she had so many plans for her life in Canada.”

Ghanimat Azdahri and Milad Ghasemi Ariani

The University of Guelph identified two victims as Ghanimat Azdahri, a PhD student in the department of geography, environment and geomatics, and Milad Ghasemi Ariani, a PhD student in marketing and consumer studies.

Azdahri worked with an organization called the ICCA Consortium, which helps Indigenous communities preserve land that supports traditional lifestyles. In a tribute on its website, the consortium called Azdahri “a true force of nature.”

Azdahri worked with many of Iran’s nomadic tribes, the tribute said, documenting their traditional territories and world views.

“She was always smiling, wherever she went, and generously shared her experience, knowledge and powerful energy. A strong activist and advocate for the global indigenous peoples movement, this is not only a loss for our ICCA Consortium family but also for many communities, organizations and movements worldwide.”

University president Franco Vaccarino said his thoughts go out to the two students’ families.

Mohammad Hossein Asadi Lari and Zeynab Asadi Lari

Parsa Shani was looking forward to meeting his friends Mohammad Hossein Asadi Lari, 23, and Zeynab Asadi Lari, 21.

The siblings were returning to Toronto after spending Christmas with their family in Iran, said Shani, who had known them for about six years.

“They frequently travel solo. It just so happens that this time the two of them were on the same flight,” he said.

The brother and sister were students at the University of Toronto, and had moved from Vancouver about 1 1/2 years ago. 

Shani said he found out about their deaths through a flood of text messages and posts.

He described Mohammad as a “role model, an inspiration” and “a friend in a time of need.”

“In his 23 years Mohammad achieved more than most people do in their lives,” Shani said. “I really believe that.”  

Mohammad was enrolled in the prestigious MD/PhD program at the University of Toronto and was partway through his third year, said Nishila Mehta, a fellow medical student.

The pair met through the school’s medical society, a student government body in the medical program.

“Most people describe him as genuinely compassionate, caring and very uplifting,” Mehta said. “He would make you believe in yourself even if you didn’t. Everyone would immediately feel at ease around him.”

Fiona Rawle, a biology professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga, said Zeynab stood out in a class of 1,000 students.

“She was exceptionally sharp, a hard worker, fiercely competitive with herself, but also incredibly collaborative with everyone else,” Rawle said.

“She was a fierce advocate for mental health and decreasing the stigma for mental health.”

Fareed Arasteh

Relatives said Fareed Arasteh, a PhD student in biology at Carleton University in Ottawa, was in Iran to marry his fiancee over the school holiday. Their wedding was just three days ago.

Golnaz Shaverdi, cousin of Arasteh’s wife, said the family is devastated by news of his death, especially his new bride, Maral, who remains in Iran.

“She’s devastated,” Shaverdi said. “He was such a nice guy. Everyone in the family really loved him. He was young and very kind. Everyone is, of course, devastated and they are also very worried for his wife, because she’s going through a very hard time now.”

Shaverdi spent a weekend with Arasteh before he left Canada and helped him pick out his wedding outfit.

“He was a very kind and very honest person. He was thinking about his fiancee, was glad that he was going to go and see her and that they were going to be married,” she said, breaking down into tears. “He talked about all their plans and their dreams about life.

“He was young. It’s not fair that it happened to him.”

Maya Zibaie

Maya Zibaie, a Grade 10 student at Northern Secondary School in Toronto, was identified by the principal as one of the passengers who died.

In a letter to parents, Adam Marshall said Zibaie was new to Canada and excited about her future.

“Maya was kind, happy and well-liked by her peers,” he wrote.

“Maya will be sorely missed. Our entire school community is in shock and some of our students are understandably upset.”

Alina Tarbhai

The union representing Ontario’s high school teachers said employee Alina Tarbhai was among those killed.

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation said Tarbhai worked at the union’s provincial office in Toronto, but it offered no other details about what took her to Iran.

“She was respected and well-liked by all. Her passing represents a profound loss for all of us who worked with her,” the federation said in a statement posted to Facebook.

Parisa Eghbalian and Reera Esmaeilion

A dentistry in Aurora, Ont., confirmed that Parisa Eghbalian, a dentist, and her daughter Reera Esmaeilion died.

Eghbalian’s husband, Hamed Esmaeilion, is also a dentist at E&E Dentistry, but was not travelling with his wife and child.

Eghbalian first immigrated to Canada in 2010 and lived with her husband and daughter in Richmond Hill, Ont., said her biography on the dentist office’s website.


Amirhossein Bahabadi Ghorbani

Amirhossein Bahabadi Ghorbani, who went by Amir Ghorbani, was a student in the University of Manitoba’s program for international students.

During a vigil at the university his close friend Ayda Mohammadian said Ghorbani wanted to be a doctor. Ghorbani studied very hard but was also a lot of fun, his friend said. Ghorbani’s goal was always to become successful so he could take care of his parents back in Iran, she added.

“We never knew that on the way back here he was going to die, and we are the ones who lost him,” she said holding back tears.

Before Ghorbani went back to Iran in December, Mohammadian told her friend she was worried for him. Ghorbani told her that he would return in 20 days and they could get back to planning their futures.

“But he didn’t come back,” she said.

Amirhossien Ghasemi

Amir Shirzadi, a board member with the Manitoba Iranian Student Association, said his good friend Amirhossien Ghasemi was on the plane.

Shirzadi said his friend was visiting family in Iran and was on his way back to Winnipeg. Ghasemi was a graduate student in biomedical engineering at the University of Manitoba.

“I saw him before he left the country,” said Shirzadi, who added that the two played games together.  

“I can’t use past tense. I think he’s coming back. We play again. We talk again. It’s too difficult to use past tense, too difficult. No one can believe it.”

Another good friend, Shahin Ahmadi, said Ghasemi always wanted to help people and expressed compassion to everyone he encountered. They spoke an hour before the flight and Ghasemi told Ahmadi he was happy to return home and get back to his studies.

“We told each other that we cannot wait to see each other again.”

Forough Khadem

Jude Uzonna, the Health Research Chair and an associate professor of immunology at the University of Manitoba, said he was devastated by the death of his friend and colleague Forough Khadem.

He met her at a conference in Iran where she was a translator. At the end of the conference Uzonna told her if she ever wanted to do a doctoral program she could come to his lab in Winnipeg. She took him up on the offer and graduated about three years ago from the University of Manitoba.

Khadem was a talented immunologist and an absolutely fantastic person to be around, Uzonna said.

“If you walk into a room and Forough is there, you will try to find out who is this lady. She is very affable. She connects with people,” he said. “It’s devastating.”

She went home to Iran in December to visit family. He texted her Monday to say he hoped that she was doing well. She responded that she was coming back to Winnipeg and hoped to see him soon.

“Now she’s gone,” he said.

Farzaneh Naderi and Noojan Sadr

Farzaneh Naderi was an amazing mother and wife and a great cook, said her niece Negysa Kalar.  Naderi’s 11-year-old son Noojan Sadr was charismatic and caring beyond his years.

“She loved her family so much and would do anything for us,” Kalar said of Naderi. “She was so full of life and selfless.”

The family moved to Winnipeg about 15 years ago. Naderi volunteered for three years before being permanently employed as a tutor for children with autism at St. Amant, a not-for-profit foundation in Manitoba.

A statement from St. Amant said Naderi had a big heart and genuinely cared about her colleagues, the children and their families.

Noojan loved to play video games and soccer. He adored his family, his cousin said.

“My little cousin was the sweetest boy and so humble.”

The mother and son were on their way home to Winnipeg after visiting family in Iran. Kalar has started the Sadr Family Memorial Fund to support her uncle, Abolfazl Sadr, who lost his son and wife.

Mohammad Sadeghi, Bahareh Hajesfandiari and Anisa Sadeghi

A Winnipeg family of three will be dearly missed, said their neighbour Behnam Soltani.

Mohammad Sadeghi, who went by Mahdi; his wife Bahareh Hajesfandiari and their daughter, 10-year-old Anisa Sadeghi, were a kind family, Soltani said.

“They were some of the nicest people I’ve met.”

Soltani said the family was in Iran to visit relatives over the holidays and he knew they were coming back on the flight that crashed. 

The family was involved in the local Iranian community, Soltani said. Mahdi Sadeghi was a board member for the Iranian association and Hajesfandiari volunteered at a Persian school.

They “were experienced civil engineers in Iran and they worked hard to transfer their credentials to their new country,” friend Mojtaba Montazeri said in an email.

Montazeri said his son and Anisa played together and were in the same Persian language program.


Arshia Arbabbahrami

Arshia Arbabbahrami, 19, was a Grade 12 student at Calgary’s Western Canada High School.

The school’s principal, Carma Cornea, said Arbabbahrami was involved in track and field and the school’s swimming and diving team.

“He dreamt of being a doctor and was a leader in our community who many students looked up to,” Cornea said in a statement.

“Arshia was returning to Canada after spending the holidays with his family in Iran.”

Amir Saeedinia

Amir Hossein Saeedinia was a PhD student in the mechanical engineering department at the University of Alberta. He was studying the composition of ceramic-metal materials that could be used to make better coatings for the oil and gas industry.

His death was confirmed by the university Thursday.

James Hogan, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, said Saeedinia had a big smile and was a natural leader.

“He had a strong mind for science,” said Hogan, Saeedinia’s co-supervisor. “I would get him to help me when other students would come into the group because I trusted his opinion that much.”

Kasra Saati

Kasra Saati travelled to Iran over the holidays for a reunion with his wife and two children, said friend Nina Saeidpour.

“He was such a smart, social person and of course he was a family guy.”

Saeidpour said Saati boarded the plane to return to Calgary, while his wife, Mehsam, infant daughter and son, who is 10 or 11, stayed behind. Mehsam was in Iran during her maternity leave so that her family could help out with the new baby, Saeidpour said.

She said friends frantically went through the flight manifest when they got word of the crash. Saati’s name was on it, but not the rest of his family. Eventually Saeidpour was able to connect with Mehsam, who was in shock and surrounded by friends and family.

“It’s just so sad that people come here to have a better life for themselves and their families, and then something like this happens,” said Saeidpour. “Suddenly, they leave behind a beautiful young family.”

Angela Murray, a spokeswoman for Viking Air Ltd. said Saati worked at the company’s aircraft assembly facility from early 2018 until December 2019. His LinkedIn profile says he was a quality engineer.

“His loss is deeply felt by everyone who had the opportunity to work with him,” said Murray.

Pedram Mousavi, Mojgan Daneshmand, Daria Mousavi and Dorina Mousavi

Payman Paseyan, a member of the Iranian-Canadian community in Edmonton, said his friend Pedram Mousavi, an engineering professor at the University of Alberta, died along with his wife Mojgan Daneshmand, also an engineering professor, and their daughters Daria Mousavi and Dorina Mousavi.

“They had two young girls with them. I can’t imagine what was going through their mind,” said Paseyan.

Hossein Saghlatoon, who did his PhD and post-doctorate studies under Mousavi, said he has known the family for about six years.

“I was crying my eyes out,” he said. “It’s not just that I was working with them or that he was my boss. He was a friend. He was like a father to me.”

Saghlatoon said it took him several hours to confirm the information before he told his colleagues one by one.

“Both of them were amazing, sweet people. They were so kind, irreplaceable,” he said.

Sina Ghaemi, an engineering professor at the University of Alberta, knew Mousavi for about six years. Their offices were next door to each other.

“He was a really fun person and always laughing,” Ghaemi said. “He was a very happy person.”

Ghaemi said Mousavi worked on antennas and had published many highly cited papers in the field.

“He was very prolific.”

Ghaemi said it was a sombre morning in the department.

“Everyone is in shock. Things are quiet and people look sad. The whole faculty’s kind of in shock.”

Shekoufeh Choupannejad, Saba Saadat and Sara Saadat

Shayesteh Majdnia, a past president of the Iranian Heritage Society of Edmonton, said she was close friends with Shekoufeh Choupannejad, a gynecologist who died along with her two daughters Saba Saadat and Sara Saadat.

Majdnia said she had spoken to Choupannejad’s husband, who is still in Iran, for confirmation. She said Choupannejad also leaves behind a son who was not on the trip with the family.

“She was the kindest person I had ever met,” Majdnia said of  Choupannejad.

She said Choupannejad was always there for community fundraisers, and often did her best to help take appointments with new immigrants who were overwhelmed and unable to find immediate medical help.

Arash Pourzarabi and Pouneh Gorji

Students from the University of Alberta said their friends, Arash Pourzarabi and Pouneh Gorji, were returning to Edmonton after getting married in Iran a week earlier.

Amir Forouzandeh and Amir Samani, who are both doing their master’s in computer science, said they were in the same program with the couple.

“I wasn’t able to go back, but they had their wedding on Jan. 1 and they were planning to come back on the 8th, and, of course, we all know what happened,” said Forouzandeh.

He said they were the kindest people he knew.

“Since Day 1 that I got to know them and hang out with them, it was a blast,” he said. “We got along so easily and pretty much within a week or two we just were hanging out every other day.”

Both Samani and Forouzandeh said the two were looking forward to the wedding when they left.

“They were super excited,” said Forouzandeh. “A lot of people came from all over the world to be at their wedding.”

Samani added that he can’t believe what happened.

“I’m a big denier right now,” he said, noting he kept checking his phone to see if Arash was online.

Nasim Rahmanifar

Nasim Rahmanifar, a master’s student in the University of Alberta’s mechanical engineering department, was nervous about her first winter in Edmonton.

“She was so excited to go back … she planned to surprise her mom,” her friend Sina Esfandiarpour told Edmonton media at a news conference.

He said he received a text from Rahmanifar from the airport that she was on her way back and she wasn’t looking forward to the cold weather.

“She was afraid,” said Esfandiarpour. “She just came in May and she said, ‘They told me it was just freezing cold.’

“She is never going to see that.” 

Ramin Fathian, Rahmanifar’s officemate, said she was really worried about the weather in Edmonton.

“She was asking me all the time, ‘What is the best jacket?’” he recalled. “We were saying it’s not that bad. You will get used to it.”

One of her supervisors, Prof. Hossein Rouhani, said Rahmanifar was a highly motivated, hard-working student who had recently earned a scholarship.

“She was an outstanding student,” said Rouhani, who added Rahmanifar planned to complete a PhD when she returned to Canada.


Mehran Abtahi

Mehran Abtahi and Mehrdad Taheran were from the same city in Iran.

Taheran found out through a mutual friend that Abtahi was on the doomed Ukranian flight.

“We wished to meet each other this year, but it will never happen,” Taheran said.

Abtahi, 37, had gone to Iran to meet his wife over Christmas.

The two men had finished their PhDs in June 2018 and were looking for jobs, Taheran said.

“Several months ago he told me that he found a decent job in Vancouver and moved to start a new chapter in his life,” he said. “Unfortunately it was the shortest, saddest and last chapter.”

In a statement, the University of British Columbia said Abtahi had joined the institution last year as a post-doctoral research fellow in the department of civil engineering.

Taheran described Abtahi as “kind, friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, broad-minded and hardworking.”

Ardalan Ebnoddin Hamidi, Niloofar Razzaghi and Kamyar Ebnoddin Hamidi

The president of the Vancouver-based Civic Association of Iranian-Canadians, Kei Esmaeilpour, said a family of three from Coquitlam, B.C., was killed in the crash.

Esmaeilpour said Ardalan Ebnoddin Hamidi, an engineer, and Niloofar Razzaghi, who had just completed university training to become a teacher, lived in the Metro Vancouver city with their 15-year-old son Hamyar Ebnoddin Hamidi.

Esmaeilpour said the family was vacationing in Iran.

He said he worked with Ebnoddin Hamidi and the two had served on the civic association together for at least a decade.

Jessi Eiriksson, 15, said through tears that Kamyar Ebnoddin Hamidi was one of her best friends. Both were in Grade 10 at Riverside Secondary School in Port Coquitlam, B.C.

“He was the most caring person I have ever met. He was always there for me and he would be there for anybody whenever they needed someone to talk to,” she sobbed.

“It’s the hardest thing losing him.”

He loved making music and wanted to become a producer when he was older, she said.

She said he also enjoyed playing soccer for fun and they would often kick a ball around together.

“He was shy except he’s just such a loving person that everyone loves Kamyar. He makes everyone happy just with his smile and a joke.”

The University of British Columbia said Razzaghi graduated with a bachelor of science in math in 2010 and a bachelor of education in 2018.

Firouzeh Madani and Naser Pourshaban

A North Vancouver couple in their mid-50s, Firouzeh Madani and Naser Pourshaban were both award-winning physicians in Iran, said their niece Sara Hezarkhani. They were working towards getting their licences to practise in Canada.

“No words can describe their personalities, their true spirit, the passion that they had for the work,” said Hezarkhani.

The couple was in Iran for about two weeks over the holidays to visit family, she said.

Pourshaban and Madani had been living in Canada for about seven years, said Hezarkhani. Their daughter is a university student in the Lower Mainland. She was not on board the flight.

“This is a big loss for our family and it will be very hard to (get) over,” said Hezarkhani.

Delaram Dadashnejad

Delaram Dadashnejad, a 26-year-old Langara College nutrition student in Vancouver, was returning from visiting family and friends in Iran, said her friend Sia Ahmadi.

Dadashnejad was originally booked for a round trip on Lufthansa Airlines, departing Vancouver on Dec. 17 and returning on Jan. 7, but her passport was stuck in Ottawa as part of her student visa renewal application, he said.

She got her passport back the morning of Dec. 18 and rebooked with Ukrainian International Airlines for a trip leaving that day and returning Jan. 8, said Ahmadi, who added he was supposed to pick her up from the airport.

“She was a very loving and compassionate person with a very kind heart, very loyal to her friends, and always tried to help people. Always.”

Dadashnejad planned to become a dietitian because she was passionate about health, said her friend, who added the young woman was an avid yogi and loved spending time outdoors in Vancouver.

He said she’s survived by her sister, who lives in Burnaby, B.C., and her mother and father who live in Tehran.

Langara College president Lane Trotter offered condolences in a statement.

“We are heartbroken over the fatal tragedy that took place; our thoughts and prayers are with those in mourning.”

Roja Omidbakhsh

Nasim Hadadi said she first met Roja Omidbakhsh, 23, last September. The young women, along with another friend, shared student residences at the University of Victoria.

Omidbakhsh went to Iran to be with her family during Christmas, Hadadi said.

Hadadi said her roommate was booked on the Ukrainian Airlines flight from Tehran and was supposed to return to Victoria on Wednesday.

Omidbakhsh described Hadadi as being “really cool.” 

“She always tried to help us, and comforted her friends when they were going through hard times.”

The University of Victoria said Omidbakhsh was registered in the Gustavson School of Business and was in Prof. Mark Colgate’s commerce class for her first term.

“Roja was very positive and had a keen interest in marketing. She was on the pathway to complete a bachelor of commerce,” Colgate said in a statement released by the school.

“We’re heartbroken that this happened and our condolences go to her family and classmates.”

Fatemah Pasavand and Ayeshe Pourghaderi

Friends of a man who runs a bakery in North Vancouver say the crash left his small family shattered.

Amir Pasavand who owns Amir Bakery in North Vancouver lost his daughter, 17-year-old Fatemah Pasavand, and his 36-year-old wife, Ayeshe Pourghaderi, a family friend confirmed.

“The family supplied bread to my store,” said Reza Varasteh, owner of Vanak Market and Deli, which is across the street from Amir Bakery.

The mother and daughter went to Iran about a month ago on vacation, he said, adding that he has known the family for about five years.

He described the family as hardworking and Pourghaderi as pleasant.

“She was always laughing, really kind.”

Varasteh said Amir Pasavand left for Tehran on Wednesday to be with his family.

Fatemah Pasavand was a student at Carson Graham Secondary School in North Vancouver and was going to turn 18 this month, he said.

“The dad was wishing he was in the airplane instead of them,” he said. “He had a hard time realizing he lost his family … He had prepared a special meal that his daughter had asked for when she came back.”

Mohammad (Daniel) Saket and Fatemah (Faye) Kazerani

Mohammad (Daniel) Saket, an engineer at North-Vancouver-based real-estate developer Denna Homes, and his wife Fatemah (Faye) Kazerani died in the crash, the company confirmed.

“This has been a very trying day for the Denna Homes family. As a small office of 10 people, Daniel’s passing is a significant loss to all of us. Daniel was a colleague, a friend and family. Both he and Faye will be sadly missed,” Dan Thomson, vice-president of marketing, said in a statement.

“Daniel and Faye both had a zest for life that lit up every room they entered.”

Farzad Taheri said he saw his cousins, who went by the English names Daniel and Faye, just before Christmas.

“We were the only family they had in Canada,” Taheri said.  

Taheri described Saket as “extremely kind, generous, humble genius.”

His death is a “big loss to humanity,” he said.

“Faye was the most positive, also extremely kind and generous woman.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first reported Jan. 11, 2020

The Canadian Press

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