Former Student Killed in Iranian Airline Crash

Social upheaval in Iran follows students on single-entry visas 

The CBC reports that the newly married had recently obtained their PhD’s in Engineering.

Sara Mamani, a former North Dakota State student, was killed on her way back from her wedding in Iran when a surface-to-air missile struck her plane killing all on board. The downing happened as tensions between America and Iran hit a peak after the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani at the direction of President Donald Trump.

Rahil Ashtarimahini, a grad student at NDSU, was a close personal friend of Mamani and said she is furious. 

“You heard the news, people are outraged,” Ashtarimahini said, “many people are out in the streets in every single city in Iran.”

Iran has had growing civil unrest since Soleimani’s assassination and the international airline crash. Ashtarimahini said people are also enraged with the government for lying about their involvement for multiple days. 

According to Ashtarimahini, the government in Iran has lied about other incidents, but because the flight was international, the pressure was enough to force them to admit what happened.

Ashtarimahini has been on a single-entry student visa in the United States and hasn’t been able to go back to Iran for 7 years. Amin Vedadi, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering, has been at NDSU for two and a half years and said many students use programs like this to escape Iran’s government.

Mamani went to a Canadian University for her Ph.D. because of the countries more relaxed program that allows re-entry.

“Students decide to come to the United States and continue their education here, rather than stay in Iran and stay under the existence of the Iranian government.”

Amin Vedadi, a Ph.D. candidate in mechanical engineering

“The population of Iran is 80 million, but 8 million people live outside the country,” Vedadi said, “most of them highly educated, live in the United States, Canada, Western European countries, all of us share the same story.”

Opportunities in Iran are only given to people who are loyal to the régime in Iran, according to Vedadi. Citizens who are not loyal or are actively against the government leave Iran.

Vedadi said speaking out can cause problems at home as well. “The response of the régime, we are not sure about that yet,” Vedadi said. “It has happened too many times, that they decide to frighten you.”

“Despite the fact the travel ban exists, despite the fact that single-entry visas exist,” Vedadi said, “students decide to come to the United States and continue their education here, rather than stay in Iran and stay under the existence of the Iranian government.”

Vedadi said he plans to stay in America or another country after he graduates from NDSU. “I don’t want to stay in my own country, because there is no opportunity for me,” Vedadi said.

The Iranian government has identified information on international citizens even about their families, according to Vedadi. “It is like taking the people hostage,” Vedadi said.

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