Iranian students hold moment of silence for crash victims

(Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette) Hossein Tavakoli, president of the Iranian Community at Michigan Technological University, addressed the crowd before a moment of silence to honor the 176 victims of a plane crash in Iran last week.

HOUGHTON — Dozens of people joined the Iranian Community at Michigan Technological University in a moment of silence on campus Wednesday for the victims of a Ukrainian plane crash in Iran last week.

The Iranian military said this week it had accidentally shot down the passenger jet, which it had mistaken for an incoming American missile during a time of heightened tensions. The crash killed all 176 people on board the flight, which had just taken off from Tehran en route to Kyiv. Many of them were Iranians studying at universities in Canada who had visited family during winter break.

“They were students like us,” said Hossein Tavakoli, president of the Iranian Community at Tech. “It was just a regular flight that happens any day in any country. They took that flight, and they were the victim of some political fight they were not part of.”

Most Iranians, whether home or abroad, do not want a military conflict, Tavakoli said.

“That’s why Iranians are on the streets these days, protesting the government,” he said. “At the same time, they are disappointed at what has happened by the United States. They are not happy on either side, because they want peace.”

Tavakoli was gratified by the high turnout, which included President Richard Koubek and other administrators. Provost Jacqueline Huntoon joined Tavakoli in speaking to the crowd.

“That is exactly why we gathered here, and it means a lot to us,” Tavakoli said. “That feels like we are welcome here in this campus and this community.”

After the moment of silence, many crowd members stayed and exchanged hugs. Nazanin Nahrjou, a third-year Ph.D. chemistry student, lit a candle at a memorial for the victims of the crash. Several were friends of friends, who she was familiar with social media.

“I’ve seen their photos from parties, and they were so happy … when I heard this, I was so sad,” she said. “They were really brilliant students – the top students from high-ranking students in Iran.”

Nahrjou hoped the tragedy of the crash could convince both sides to stay out of war.

“I’m not into the politics, but I hope it’s going to get better,” she said.