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Amnesty urges Philippines to halt deportation of ex-Miss Iran

Zarebahari still has not been given the charges for her arrest. [Getty]

Date of publication: 7 November, 2019

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Bahareh Zarebahari was detained by local authorities in Manila upon her arrival from Dubai, and has been trapped in the transit area of the airport for four weeks.
Amnesty International on Thursday urged authorities in the Philippines not to deport 31-year-old asylum seeker Bahareh Zarebahari to Iran since she "could face detention and torture" upon return.

The former 2018 Miss Intercontinental beauty pageant contestant was detained by local authorities in Manila upon her arrival from Dubai, and has been trapped in the transit area of the airport for four weeks.

"Bahareh Zarebahari has been a vocal critic of the Iranian authorities and a public opponent of forced veiling. If the Philippines authorities send her to Iran she risks arrest, torture and other ill-treatment, and unfair trial and imprisonment," said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty International's Regional Director for East and Southeast Asia.

"The Philippines authorities have an obligation under international law to refrain from sending anyone to a country where they could be at risk of serious human rights violations."

Zarebahari still has not been given the charges for her arrest and is currently being held in a room in Terminal 3 of Manila's Ninoy Aquino International airport.

Read also: Iran arrests Instagram celebrity for 'blasphemy'

She posted on social media that the Iranian authorities want to punish her for her opposition to the Islamic Republic.

"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."

A spokesperson for the Philippines' justice department said Bahari's asylum application will be processed in "due time".

In her latest communications on Facebook, Bahari asked the Filipino government to issue her a guard and a safe place to stay in the event of her release as she says there are "killers" in the country ready to "finish Iran's orders" which could jeopardise her life. 

The dentistry student has been vocal regarding her support for Iran's deposed royal family. During the 2018 beauty contest in Manila, she waved a poster of Reza Pahlavi and draped herself in the former national flag of Iran.

In a series of messages on her social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram, Zarebahari says that airport authorities have detained her like a prisoner and denied her any visitors besides limited access to her Philippines lawyers.

She says her physical and mental health have deteriorated during her three-week detention.

Despite her pending asylum case, Zarebahari said airport authorities tried to coerce her to sign papers agreeing to her deportation to Iran.

Previously, Markk Perete, Undersecretary at the Philippine Department of Justice, said that "the only reason she was held at the airport […] is only because of that Red Notice issued against her."

Human Rights Watch urged the Philippines to provide Bahari with assistance while her application is processed, emphasising that an Interpol Red Notice is void if its target is a refugee.

On 6 November, Philippines Senator and Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience Leila de Lima raised concerns about Bahareh Zarebahari's case and demanded the Philippines government to respect her asylum application in compliance with international human rights law.

Under international law, governments are prohibited from sending anyone to a country where they would be at risk of serious human rights violations.

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