Nezami memorial puts spotlight on domestic violence, organ donation

HOUGHTON – A crowd of more than 150 turned out Monday night to celebrate and say goodbye to someone they never got the chance to know.

A remembrance for Sanaz Nezami was held Tuesday night at Michigan Technological University. Nezami, who had been admitted to MTU as a graduate student for the spring semester, died Dec. 12 at Marquette General Hospital from head injuries sustained four days before. Her husband and alleged assailant, Nima Nassiri, is in the Houghton County Jail and charged with second-degree murder.

Sara Alian, president of Iranian Community at Michigan Tech, said as an Iranian graduate student, she could relate to Nezami.

“While no member of the Iranian community at Michigan Tech had yet met Sanaz, we immediately felt as if she was also a member of our small community ever since the sad news was shared with us,” Alian said.

Alian read a message from Nezami’s sister, Sara Nezami, written for the memorial.

Nezami obtained a master’s degree in French translation and a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering in Iran. Nezami had been admitted to another university to study English-French translation, but chose to attend Michigan Tech for a doctorate in environmental engineering.

“It was her goal to become a knowledgeable person in order to serve God by helping others,” Sara Nezami said in the message.

In addition to her studies, Nezami helped physically and mentally challenged people as well as the poor and needy. She also enjoyed reading religious texts, her sister said.

Nezami’s organs were transplanted into seven other people, including a child who received her heart. In the message, Nezami’s sister said she hoped the recipients would recover, and get in touch with the family to let them know how they are doing.

“To save a life is amazing, and to save several lives is a time to celebrate,” she said in the message.

Speakers talked about Nezami’s life and the ones she gave to others, but also on the alleged circumstances of her death.

On a per capita basis, domestic violence is as common in the Copper Country as it is in large urban areas, said Mary Niemela, outreach advocate for the Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter.

People can help by listening to people who are telling or hinting about being the victim of domestic violence, Niemela said. If someone talks about their significant other belittling them, don’t minimize their concerns, she said. Another part is believing what the person is saying.

“We don’t want to believe it’s happening either, but it does,” Niemela said.

People can also help by volunteering at the shelter, or others – there are 46 in the state of Michigan, Niemela said.

The Barbara Kettle Gundlach Shelter will hold a fundraiser from 4 to 6 p.m. March 23 at the Orpheum Theater in Hancock. There will also be a talk at noon Feb. 14 at a location yet to be determined as part of the global 1 Billion Rising event. Updates can be found at the shelter website,

Niemela also encouraged people to follow the progress of Nassiri’s case and attend his court hearings. His next hearing will be 1:30 p.m. Feb. 12 in Houghton County Circuit Court.

The memorial closed with Muslim, Christian and Bah’ prayers by electrical engineering professor Saeid Nooshabadi, Laleh Vahdat and Amika Nooshabadi. Many stayed around for a brief social with Iranian desserts such as rice pudding and wheat halwa.

Mechanical engineering major Raviteja Zakkam came to pay respects to Nezami.

“She donated her organs to give to a number of people,” he said. “I think that is why everyone should be inspired. And everyone should also learn the lesson about domestic violence, and make their part in preventing domestic violence … you should ask him or her to make a step forward and give them moral support,” he said.