UBC grad and sister killed in Iran plane crash had bright futures ahead, close friend says

Asadi-Lari siblings Mohammad Hussein and Zeynab were two of 57 Canadians aboard downed Flight PS752

The gut-wrenching loss of 57 Iranian-Canadian lives – all killed while aboard a Ukrainian jetliner in Tehran – has taken a toll on the nation, greatly impacting the communities these people chose to call home.

Those aboard the doomed plane, which Iranian officials have admitted was mistakenly shot down with a missile by its own military, included families with young children, doctors and dozens of international students whose bright futures were cut short.

Saman Arfaie says one of his closest friends, Mohammad Hossein Asadi-Lari, was no exception.

“Mohammad was the future of Canada’s growing lineage of the clinician-scientist-entrepreneur,” Arfaie said. “Mohammad’s presence was a sense of comfort and he was on his way to becoming one of the most compassionate and caring physician-scientists of his generation.”

Mohammad, 23, and his sister Zeynab Asadi-Lari, 21, were two of the 14 people with B.C. ties to die in the crash, as confirmed by a number of sources.

READ MORE: At least 14 people from B.C. among victims in fatal Iran plane crash

Born in Iran before growing up in the U.K., Mohammad’s family travelled to more than 20 countries before settling in Burnaby six years ago, when he was in Grade 12. While speaking in a TedxTalk hosted in Vancouver last year, Mohammad described his experience moving from “a very strict academic culture of Iran” to one more focused on extra-curricular activities and leadership.

But Mohammad found a way to flourish in his new community after a teacher suggested he use his passion for chemistry to push through his comfort zone and start a science club. At the time, Mohammad said he didn’t even know what a club was.

“That’s really the starting point of a journey that I’ve been on over the past five years since moving to this country, and one that has had these two phrases really weaved into it and that’s youth [and] empowerment.”

Mohammad went on to graduate with honours from the Cellular, Anatomical and Physiological Sciences program at the University of British Columbia in 2018. He was in his second year of medical school at the University of Toronto.

Zeynab also had notable leadership qualities, according to faculty at U of T. First enrolled at the UBC in 2016 in the Bachelor of Science program, with a major in biology, Zeynab transferred to U of T’s Mississauga campus when her brother did.

A “fierce advocate” for mental health, reducing stigma, public health and global health, associate professor Fiona Rawle said in a news release that when faced with a barrier, Zeynab would look for solutions and always followed up her ideas with action.

“She was fiercely competitive with herself but collaborative with others,” said Rawle recalls, adding that the young woman had an incredible capacity to build relationships and exhibited “tremendous leadership skills.”

She could often be found mentoring others, and served as the mental health network co-ordinator for the Youth Mental Health Association, a youth member at Young Canadians Roundtable on Health, and executive board member at the Iran University of Medical Sciences Medical Student Association for Cancer Research.

‘He dedicated his time and energy to the wellness of others’

Arfaie said he’ll remember his friend for his natural leadership and passion for taking part in a long list of community projects and organizations, including work as a youth advisor for the Canadian Commission for UNESCO.

“What set Mohammad apart, was his passionate visionary leadership, continuous strive for excellence and empathy and genuine care around everyone that interacted with him,” Arfaie said.

Mohammad’s interest in inspiring youth continued into adulthood, co-founding a non-profit organization called STEM Fellowship with a teacher in Toronto in 2016. Today, the program includes mentorship and internship opportunities for youth across the country.

“He dedicated his time and energy to the wellness of others. In this way, he was the most selfless man I have ever met to this day,” Arfaie continued.

“His vision was purely humanitarian and I cannot stress the importance of his strong work with youth empowerment—his mission was of a connected kind.”

The two friends, both aspiring surgeon-scientists, were considering working together on peer-reviewed manuscripts and had brainstormed ideas for a medical consulting company.

Arfaie is now being forced to grapple with the fact that those dreams of a future working with Mohammad no longer exist.

“The shock of losing him becomes harder to digest given our active involvement, and mutual interest, in many different projects.”

To honour Mohammad and Zeynab’s life, Arfaie has turned to music. Shortly after the crash, Arfaie posted a video to his social media of him playing Opus 48, no. 1 by Frederic Chopin, inspired by Mohammad’s love for classical music.

Along with the nocturne, Arfaie has one promise: that he will continue the siblings’ legacy of advocacy, scholarship and youth involvement.

“I only wish I had the chance to play for him before he left us so early.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Flight 752 crash in Iran

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Wind and waves were part of the reason why the Sail Canada High Performance Team selected HMCS Quadra as the winter training base for Tokyo 2021. Photo by Ken Dool
National sailing team prepares for Olympics at HMCS Quadra in Comox

HMCS Quadra is serving as the winter training base for the Canadian… Continue reading

Courtenay residents will have a substantial schedule change for curbside trash collection beginning in January 2021. (Ben Lypka/Black Press file)
Courtenay moving to a zone system for curbside trash collection

New system means collection days will change with every statutory holiday

A jubilant Ronna-Rae Leonard salutes the crowd at her victory party at the Avalanche Bar & Grill. (photo by Scott Stanfield)
UPDATE: Leonard declared early winner for Courtenay-Comox

NDP incumbent held similar margin of lead throughout the evening

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

FILE – B.C. Lions and Toronto Argonauts owner, Senator David Braley speaks after the CFL announced Vancouver will host the 2014 Grey Cup championship football game during a news conference in Vancouver, B.C., on Friday March 8, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
BC Lions owner David Braley dead at 79

Braley had bought the CFL team prior to 1997 season

NDP Leader John Horgan speaks with the owner of a barber shop while campaigning in Pitt Meadows, B.C., on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. Campaigning was restricted by the coronavirus pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s B.C. majority came with historically low voter turnout

Barely half of eligible voters cast ballots in snap election

Jordan Jay Ward, 20, is wanted Canada-wide for manslaughter. (Calgary police photo)
RCMP: Suspicious man seen in Parksville woods resembled manslaughter suspect

Hikers say he resembled Jordan Jay Ward, wanted Canada-wide

A police pursuit ended with an arrest in Williams Lake on Highway 97 Sunday afternoon. (Facebook video screenshot)
Video catches police pursuit that ends with man kicked, punched in Williams Lake

A video of the arrest is getting widely shared on social media

Most Read