An Iranian beauty queen has requested asylum in the Philippines after an Interpol alert about her filed by Tehran got her detained at the Manila airport.
Bahareh Zare Bahari has been held at Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s Terminal 3 since October 17, as authorities examine Iran’s allegation that she assaulted a fellow Iranian in the Philippines and Bahari’s counter-claim that the Islamic Republic is targeting her for her political activism and that the charges against her are fake.
Bahari, who represented Iran at the 2018 Miss Intercontinental pageant in Manila and who has been studying dentistry in the Philippines since 2014, is an outspoken women’s rights advocate and a supporter of opposition activists in her country.
Earlier this year she angered Iran’s Islamist government by waving a photo of prominent government critic Reza Pahlavi at a pageant. Joining a beauty pageant is in itself frowned upon by the conservative religious leadership.
Various media outlets have quoted Bahari as saying that if she is deported to Iran in compliance with the Interpol Red Notice, “they will kill me.”
“I am against our government. The Iran government is terrorist. I always try to [give a] voice [to] my people on media,” she told The Philippine Star.
“I used [Pahlavi’s] photo on stage to be [the] voice of my people because all news and media are ignoring my people,” she told The Telegraph on Tuesday.
Bahari, who Philippine authorities say is 31 years old despite her pageant profile saying she was 21 when she joined, has no criminal cases pending against her, according to Markk Perete, undersecretary at the Philippine department of justice.
“The only reason she was held at the airport — and we really don’t call it detention, it is really restraining her from entering the Philippine territory — is only because of that Red Notice issued against her,” Perete told The Telegraph.
But Bahari has complained she is receiving no updates and no reason for the continued detention.
Our Compatriot Bahareh Zare Bahari is arrested by Interpol. They say: Iran ordered them to do this. Regime in Iran did this because Bahareh spread our voice: Long live Shah. Because she used Iran’s original flag and photo of Prince Crown Reza Pahlavi.
— Yasaman???? (@YasamanFlower) October 21, 2019
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, was quoted by The Telegraph as urging a “fair and impartial hearing of her claim” and saying it was “absolutely critical the Philippines provides Bahareh Zare Bahari with support, including access to legal counsel, to compile and file her asylum application.”
“While waiting for the details to become clear, there should be no action under Iran’s Interpol red notice, especially since under Interpol rules a red notice is null and void if the person named in the notice is found to be a refugee fleeing from the state that issued it.”