A former Miss Iran has spent a week in a Philippine airport as she fights to claim asylum in the Southeast Asian country, saying that she fears execution in Iran on politically motivated charges.
Bahareh Zare Bahari was accused of assault by an Iranian national in the Philippines, a charge that she said was false and made because she had showed support for Tehran’s critics in the past.
Iranian authorities put out a “red notice” about her to the International Criminal Police Organization, commonly known as Interpol, resulting in her being held at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport when she tried to enter the country on Thursday last week.
Bahari said that she now fears Iran might seek to extradite her to Tehran, then have her killed or jailed.
She has shown support for activists opposing Iran’s government in the past, notably at last year’s Miss Intercontinental beauty pageant in Manila, at which she competed. At the event she waved a poster of Reza Pahlavi, a former Iranian crown prince who has criticized the Iranian regime.
“I used his photo in a beauty pageant and they are angry with me,” Bahari told Arab News. “If they deport me, they will give me at least 25 years in jail, if they do not kill me.”
Bahari said that she had studied dentistry in the Philippines since 2014, and had traveled in and out of the country before being stopped at the airport last week.
“The Iran regime tried its best to deport me nine months ago, but I was successful,” she told the Philippine Star. “Now, they make a fake case in Iran.”
Human Rights Watch deputy director for Asia Phil Robertson said: “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.”
A Philippine Department of Justice spokesperson said that Bahari’s asylum application would be processed in “due time.”
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