Sat, May 21, 2011 - Page 7 News List

Journalist returns home after Syria, Iran ordeal

‘ON PAR’:The reporter said that Syrian agents had a tough time determining which was worse, her being a possible US spy for Israel or an al-Jazeera journalist

AP, TORONTO

Dorothy Parvaz, an al-Jazeera journalist detained in Syria and later Iran, was reunited with her family in Canada on Thursday, two days after her released.

Parvaz was greeted with warm hugs from relatives as she arrived at Vancouver International Airport in British Columbia.

“Happy to be back and I’m anxious to be with my family,” she said as reporters crowded around her.

Parvaz, 39, disappeared after arriving in Syria on April 29 to cover anti-government protests. Syria said she was deported to Iran, an important ally, shortly after her arrival.

In Syria and Iran she was held incommunicado until her release on Tuesday. The first time her family heard from her since she left Qatar was on Tuesday night, when she called them from Doha where al-Jazeera is headquartered, to tell them she had been released.

Parvaz, who was born in Iran and also has US and Canadian citizenship, had used her Iranian passport to enter Syria because she couldn’t enter with either of the others.

Parvaz wrote an account of her captivity for al-Jazeera’s Web site posted on Wednesday, saying that she had been taken to a Syrian detention center because she was carrying a satellite telephone when she arrived at the airport in Damascus.

“Still, if that was deemed suspicious, then my American passport, complete with its al-Jazeera sponsored visa, sealed the deal. The agents couldn’t seem to agree what I was or which was worse: An American spy for Israel or an Al-Jazeera reporter both were pretty much on a par,” she wrote.

Parvaz wrote she was interrogated for four hours, as the sounds of brutal beatings could be heard in the background.

Three days later she said he was told she was free to go back to Qatar, but instead she was she was put on a flight to Tehran. She said the Syrian authorities had told the Iranians that she was a spy — a charge that can carry a death penalty in Iran. However, after a couple of weeks of interrogations, officials identified her as a journalist and ordered her release.

She said in Iran, she was treated with respect, courtesy and care.

At the airport, her father thanked the media for helping to publicize his daughter’s situation and said his family now plans to spend some quiet time together. The family could not be reached immediately for further comment.

Parvaz apologized to reporters at the airport on Thursday, saying she couldn’t give interviews about her ordeal.

“I have to authorize everything through my employer,” she said. “Thank you very much, I’m so sorry, I know what it’s like to be on your side.”

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