An Iranian beauty queen has been detained for 13 days now at the international airport of the Philippine capital Manila after the international police service Interpol issued an arrest warrant for her. According to Bahareh Zare Bahari, her homeland would try to silence her because she openly speaks out against the regime in Tehran.
The woman is currently in Terminal 3 of Manila airport and says in some videos on Facebook that she is looking for “a safe place to live”, “where I don’t have to fear for my life all the time”.
Her ordeal began on October 17, when she was suddenly no longer allowed to enter the Philippines on her return from Dubai. She has been living there since 2014 and is studying for a dentist, with a student visa that is renewed every year. According to her, that is still valid until January 2020.
According to the Filipino migration service, an international arrest warrant was in force against her: a ‘Red Notice’ from Interpol. It is not clear exactly which country asked for her arrest. Neither the Filipino migration service, nor Interpol, nor Iran wants to comment on that.
According to the woman herself, a migration officer told her that Iran requested the “Red Notice” in 2018. Bahari told news channel CNN that this was at least strange. “I have been living here for five years, and I have not been to Iran in the meantime. How could I have misled something there?”
The migration service also stated that there was a complaint of blows and injuries against the woman in the Filipino city of Dagupan. Bahari takes that as lies that aim to drive her back to Tehran. According to her, the support she already expressed for the exiled Reza Pahlavi – the son of Shah of Iran, who was deposed in 1979 – would be the real cause of her problems. For example, in a beauty contest, she recently used an image of Pahlavi and the flag of the former Iranian monarchy “to make the voice of her people heard.”
Her social activism would also not go down well in Iran, she testifies. For example, she would have become a teacher to teach girls “that they are not things, but people with the same rights as boys.”
In the meantime, she has been at Manila airport for almost two weeks. From the Filipino migration service, she has to take the plane to Tehran, but she refuses. In the meantime, she has applied for asylum. “If I have to go back to Iran, it will be my death,” she says. “This uncertainty is terrible.”
Human Rights Watch Deputy Director Phil Robertson stated in a statement that his organization was “concerned” about the “mysterious” Red Notice. “Certainly because such an order is not valid if the person in question is fleeing the country that issues it.”
And there’s more. “There have already been several incidents where Middle Eastern countries known for suppressing human rights have used Interpol to bring dissidents back to their countries of origin,” he says.