Iranian beauty queen seeks asylum in Philippines

Bahareh Zare Bahari, Iran's representative to the Miss Intercontinental pageant in 2018. (Credit: Baharaeh's Facebook account)
Updated 21 October 2019

Iranian beauty queen seeks asylum in Philippines

  • Bahareh Zare Bahari has been detained at Manila airport on the basis of an Interpol “red notice” on a charge of assault

MANILA/AMMAN: An Iranian beauty queen is seeking asylum in the Philippines because she fears for her life in Tehran.

Bahareh Zare Bahari, who was Iran's entry at the Miss Intercontinental pageant in 2018, is in the custody of the Philippines’ Bureau of Immigration after she was intercepted at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport last week.

The bureau said she was barred from entering the Philippines because of an Interpol red notice due to an assault and battery case filed against her by a fellow Iranian. The incident is alleged to have happened in the Philippines. 




Bahareh Zare Bahari, Iran's representative to the Miss Intercontinental pageant in 2018. (Credit: Baharaeh's Facebook account)

Bahari denies any wrongdoing, saying the case against her was fake. She added that Tehran was targeting her for supporting an opposition politician, violating traditional values by taking part in beauty pageants and speaking for women’s rights.

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

“I used his photo in a beauty pageant and they are angry with me,” Bahari told Arab News during a phone interview. “If they (Philippines) deport me, they (Iran) will give me at least 25 years in jail, if they do not kill me.”

Bahari said she had travelled to the Philippines after a two-week vacation to Dubai, where she did not encounter any problems with immigration authorities. She was surprised when she was intercepted at the airport in Manila and informed that she was on an Interpol list.




Bahareh Zare Bahari, carrying the photo of Iranian opposition leader Reza Pahlavi during a beauty contest at Mall of Asia Arena in Manila on Jan. 28, 2019. (Supplied photo)

Her lawyer had checked all records in the Philippines and with Interpol but there was no record against her, she added.

The beauty queen denied committing any crimes in Iran, or in the Philippines where she has been studying dentistry since 2014.

Media reports said Bahari was due to be deported to Iran on Monday but a Department of Justice official, Mark Perete, said she remained in the bureau’s custody and “could not be sent back to Iran because she has filed an application for asylum.”

The department would resolve her asylum application “in due time," he added.


Panic grips Kashmir after internet crackdown

Updated 20 February 2020

Panic grips Kashmir after internet crackdown

  • Authorities use UAPA charges against those ‘misusing’ social media

NEW DELHI: When Yahia Mir steps outside of his home in Srinagar in Indian-administered Kashmir, he is careful to leave his smartphone behind. 

The 23-year-old journalism student from Kashmir University explained that he does so because he is scared of security forces discovering the Virtual Private Network (VPN) installed on his mobile phone.

Recently, Mir (not his real name) said, a friend of his was assaulted by officials who found a VPN on his phone.

“Everyone in the valley uses a VPN to connect with the outside world,” Mir told Arab News on Wednesday. “Tell me, how do you expect life to be normal when there is no internet?” 

The disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir has been under curfew following New Delhi’s annulment of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution — which guaranteed special autonomy to Kashmir, parts of which are governed in part by both India and Pakistan, but all of which is claimed by both countries to belong to them.

Since the Indian government annulled Article 370, there has been a crackdown on mobile and Internet services in the valley which, to date, have only been partially restored.

To get around the internet ban many in the valley turned to proxy networks, which allow users to anonymously connect with a third-person server outside of Kashmir.

On Tuesday, in a renewed crackdown, the Indian government filed charges against people “misusing” social media.

Local police in Srinagar registered cases against various unnamed individuals under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), a draconian law that means anyone charged cannot seek bail for six months.

Police said that action would be taken against those who misused social-media sites to propagate “secessionist ideology and (promote) unlawful activities.”

“There have been continuous reports of misuse of social media sites by the miscreants to propagate secessionist ideology and to promote unlawful activities,” Jammu and Kashmir police said in a statement released on Tuesday, which went on to say that the “miscreants” were “propagating rumors with regard to the current security scenario of the Kashmir valley … and glorifying terror acts/ terrorists. 

“A lot of incriminating material has also been seized in this regard.” A First Information Report (FIR) has been registered against the “miscreants.”

Mir told Arab News that this is “the government’s new way to terrorize the people of Kashmir.”

Legal professional Deeba Ashraf said the crackdown feels “as if we are living in the 19th century.”

She told Arab News: “My profession demands that I remain updated about recent cases and case laws. How is that possible without the internet?” She added that “even security personnel” in the valley are using VPNs.

“I have lost trust in the government and I don’t see which way Kashmir is going,” she continued. “The government’s crackdown scares everyone. But I wonder does the government have any policy for Kashmir besides lockdown?”

Computer engineer Muddasir (not his real name) agreed.

“Most of the people who needed the Internet for their professional survival have left the valley,” he said. “I am also thinking of leaving Srinagar to escape the prison that we are in. The sense of fear is so strong. Imagine: Security forces are checking your phone and trying to see what apps are on (it). Is this normal?”

Iltiza Mufti, daughter of the detained former Chief Minister of Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti, strongly condemned the government’s measures.

“The rest of the country — and the envoys who visited Kashmir — were told that we enjoy equal rights, but in reality you can’t even use VPN in Kashmir. What rights do Kashmiris have right now?” she asked in a press conference in Delhi on Tuesday.

“The clampdown in Kashmir (is taking a huge toll) and Jammu and Kashmir is grappling with an economic, psychological and emotional crisis,” added Mufti, who has become the face of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) after her mother’s arrest last year.

Srinagar-based political analyst and writer, Gowhar Geelani, told Arab News: “This is an official admission by the Indian government of thought control of the entire population of Kashmir. This is a war against the people of Kashmir. The arrest of the three former chief ministers of the state and the detention of other political activists show that, in Kashmir, the only opinion that matters is the opinion of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).”

Geelani added that there are “darker days ahead and not much hope.”