Diaspora Community Affected by Air Crash

TORONTO, SYDNEY— The loss of 168 people in a plane crash in Iran last
Wednesday has been felt around the world, with the Armenian Diaspora hit

The Toronto Star reported that Vahik Khachik, of Toronto, left his wife and 3-
year-old son at the airport in Tehran to fly to Yerevan.

“I saw them off from behind the glass,” Khachik told the paper during a phone
interview from Tehran. “That was the last time I saw them.”

In Sydney, the Morning Herald reported on the loss of two siblings who had fled
Iran to Australia eight years ago. Arin and Ani Apcarian were set to fly to Yerevan to visit the country for the first time. Arin had been researching disease in the Third World.

“We’re all shocked and devastated, and were in a state of denial for days,” said Westmead Millennium Institute’s Dr. Russell Diefenbach to the Morning Herald. “For someone so young and in the prime of life … it’s just so hard to comprehend.”

Armenian National Committee of Australia spokesperson Stephen Abolakian added that the Armenian community had “lost two vibrant members.”

The full article, by Arjun Ramachandran, is reproduced below:

Eight years ago the Apcarian family left Iran for Sydney, fearing for their lives and convinced — as Christians of Armenian heritage — they had a better chance of achieving success in Australia than in the Islamic republic.

The move was paying off. As young adults, the family’s two youngest children, Arin and Ani, were fulfilling their family’s dreams.

But their lives were cut short last week in a cruel twist of fate.

The siblings were among 168 people killed last Wednesday when Caspian Airlines Flight 7908 crashed in northwest Iran, soon after take-off and bound for Armenia.

Arin and Ani — both in their 20s — had planned to take a bus, only to change their plans at the last minute on advice from a doctor, a friend said.

Arin had just undergone laser eye surgery in Iran, and his surgeon advised him against a dusty bus trip because of the infection risk.

The pair, born and raised in Tehran but of Armenian heritage, were traveling to Armenia to “enjoy the motherland” for the first time, a family friend and Armenian community leader, who did not wish to be named, said.

Their parents were in “very deep mourning” over the deaths of the youngest two of their three children, he said.

Arin, the older of the two, was a well-respected medical researcher and PhD student at Sydney University.

His research leader at the Westmead Millennium Institute, Dr. Russell Diefenbach, said Arin was instrumental in the group’s research into molecular viral transport.

“Our research involves looking at how viruses move around in cells … to come up with better treatments,” he said.

“Arin was an exceptional student, very conscientious, hard working and always willing to learn.”

Arin’s work — focusing on the herpes simplex virus — had the potential to help large numbers of people, particularly in Third World countries where people with herpes simplex virus were at greater risk of contracting HIV, he said.

“We’re all shocked and devastated, and were in a state of denial for a number of days.

“For someone so young and in the prime of life … it’s just so hard to comprehend.”

Arin was also heavily involved in the social side of postgraduate life, and was president of a student researchers society.

A society colleague said: “[Arin was] one of the most selfless people, just a real gentleman. He was the first one to volunteer for things.”

A close friend who met Arin at school six months after he arrived in Australia said Arin’s intelligence was apparent in the speed with which his English skills improved.

But he was always humble about his academic achievements, he said.

“Sometimes I wished he was louder so more people would have got to know him,” he said.

In addition to his full-time studies, he worked on weekends at a service station and occasionally played indoor soccer, he said.

His younger sister, Ani, was just one term short of completing her university studies, and had been achieving good marks, a family friend said.

She was studying child care, a community website armenia. com.au reported.

She was also a volunteer teacher at the Toumanian Armenian School in Ryde, teaching Armenian to children, another community leader said.

“She was adored by her students and respected by parents and staff,” he said.

“She was also actively involved in other aspects of community work including assisting with [the monthly community newsletter].

“Their passing will certainly will felt by the strong Sydney Armenian community of over 40,000.”

Stephen Abolakian, community relations officer of the Armenian National Committee of Australia, said the Armenian community had “lost two vibrant members” of the community.

Another community spokesman said there were four other Armenian families in Sydney who had also lost relatives in the crash.