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Iranian beauty queen remains at Manila airport despite refugee status

Iranian beauty queen remains at Manila airport despite refugee status

MANILA/ISLAMABAD: Former Miss Iran Bahareh Zare Bahari said on Friday evening that she remains at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) despite having her asylum request accepted by the Philippines.

“They gave me a paper to sign and it says I can work here. The document states that I can leave the Philippines whenever I want,” Bahari told Arab News.

She remained at the airport due to her security-related concerns. The document, according to Bahari, says nothing about her protection.  


Bahareh Zare Bahari at the immegartion desk in Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) after her request for asylum was granted, Manila Nov, 07, 2019  ( Photo courtesy Martelino Bacungan and Associates)

Justice Undersecretary and spokesman Markk Perete told Arab News that the Philippines has granted refugee status to the beauty queen who sought asylum in the Southeast Asian country, fearing she will be killed if she is deported to Tehran.

Bahari has been held at the Manila airport for almost a month due to what authorities said was an Interpol red notice.

“I can confirm that her application has been approved as of Tuesday,” Perete told Arab News.

A letter addressed to Bahari from the Department of Justice Refugee and Stateless Persons Protection Unit (RSPPU) read: “You are hereby informed that you are recognized as a refugee under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol in a decision, dated Nov. 6, 2019.”

It was signed by Senior State Counsel Rosario Elena A. Laborte-Cuevas, officer-in-charge of the RSPPU’s legal staff.

Despite her legal status, Bahari told Arab News that she remains at the airport out of fear for her life.

“My lawyer has asked about my security, but they told him ‘she should go back to her house (in the Philippines) and continue her life as it was before.’”

An immigration official, who requested anonymity as they are not authorized to talk about the case, said Bahari was allowed to leave the airport and had been admitted into the Philippines on Thursday afternoon.

“Yes, I have entered the Philippines now, but I told the authorities that without security I will not  leave,” she told Arab News when asked if she had crossed immigration checkpoints.

While being held at the airport, Bahari complained on social media over treatment from authorities.

“We hope she substantiates her allegations so that a formal inquiry can be made,” Perete said, adding that he is been in constant communication with the immigration authorities and has been informed that Bahari “had always been treated with respect and provided with the utmost convenience available under the circumstances.”


Bahareh Zare Bahari, Iran's representative to the Miss Intercontinental pageant in 2018. (Courtesy: eventservice.tn)

Bahari was intercepted at the NAIA on Oct. 17 and barred from entering the country upon her arrival from a two-week vacation in Dubai due to the Interpol red notice against her for an assault and battery case allegedly committed in Dagupan City in the Philippines.

Bahari denies any wrongdoing, saying the cases against her are fake.

She has also said she would be killed or imprisoned if deported to Iran where Tehran is allegedly targeting her for supporting an opposition politician, violating traditional values by taking part in beauty pageants and speaking for women’s rights.

In January, Bahari appeared at a beauty pageant carrying a picture of Reza Pahlavi, an Iranian opposition leader and founder of the National Council of Iran.

“If they deport me to Iran, they will give me at least 25 years in jail if they do not kill me,” Bahari said in an interview with Arab News last month.

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