Fearing for her life, Iranian beauty queen granted asylum remains at Manila airport

Bahareh Zare Bahari with her lawyer, Agustin Bacunganat ( in pink shirt) and his team at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Manila after Bahar was granted asylum to the Philippines, Manila Nov, 07, 2019 ( Photo courtesy Martelino Bacungan and Associates)
Updated 09 November 2019

Fearing for her life, Iranian beauty queen granted asylum remains at Manila airport

  • Bahari was stopped at Manila airport last month due to an Interpol red notice
  • Says she fears for her life and anticipates death or prison if deported to Iran

MANILA/ISLAMABAD: Former Miss Iran, Bahareh Zare Bahari, said on Friday evening she feared for her life and would remain at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) despite her asylum request having been accepted by the Philippines government this week.
Bahari arrived in Manila from a two-week vacation in Dubai on October 18 but was barred from leaving the airport due to what authorities said was an International Police (Interpol) red notice. She says because of her political views and stance on women’s rights, she will be killed or jailed if she is deported to Iran.




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)

On Friday, the Philippines government said it had approved the asylum application of the beauty queen.
Despite her now clear legal status, Bahari said was staying 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’,” Bahari told Arab News via phone, adding: “I told authorities that without security I will not leave [the airport].”
An immigration official, who requested anonymity, said Bahari was allowed to leave the airport and had been admitted into the Philippines Thursday afternoon.
“They gave me a paper to sign and it says I can work here [in the Philippines] ... The document states that I can leave the Philippines whenever I want,” Bahari said, adding that the document said nothing about what protection she would be provided, if any.
“I can confirm that her application has been approved as of Tuesday,” Philippine Department of Justice Undersecretary and spokesman Mark Perete told Arab News on Friday.
A letter addressed to Bahari from the DoJ Refugee and Stateless Persons Protection Unit (RSPPU) said: “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 06 November 2019.”
The letter is signed by Senior State Counsel Rosario Elena A. Laborte-Cuevas, Office-in-Charge, RSPPU-Legal Staff.
“Now I am staying in a better room at the airport; it is small but it has a hot shower, restroom and there is food in the room,” Bahari said.
However, on social media she has complained over the mistreatment meted out to her by airport authorities.




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

“We hope she substantiates her allegations so that a formal inquiry can be made,” Perete said, adding that he had been in constant communication with the immigration authorities and been informed that Bahari “had always been treated with respect and provided with the utmost convenience available under the circumstances.”
Bahari was intercepted at the NAIA last month and barred from entering the country due to an 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 the Tehran government 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 (the Philippines) deport me (to) Iran, (they will) at least give me 25 years in jail if they do not kill me,” Bahari said in an interview with Arab News last month.


Cambodia to ban elephant rides at Angkor temples

Updated 15 November 2019

Cambodia to ban elephant rides at Angkor temples

  • The Angkor archaeological complex in northern Siem Reap attracts the bulk of the kingdom’s tourists
  • Apsara authority plans to end the elephant rides by 2020
PHNOM PENH: Cambodia will ban all elephant rides at the country’s famed Angkor temple park by early next year, an official said Friday, a rare win for conservationists who have long decried the popular practice as cruel.
The Angkor archaeological complex in northern Siem Reap attracts the bulk of the kingdom’s foreign tourists — which topped six million in 2018 — and many opt for elephants rides around the ancient temples.
But these rides “will end by the start of 2020,” said Long Kosal, a spokesman with the Apsara Authority, which manages the park.
“Using elephants for business is not appropriate anymore,” he told AFP, adding that some of the animals were “already old.”
So far, five of the 14 working elephants have been transferred to a community forest about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away from the temples.
“They will live out their natural lives there,” Kosal said.
The company that owns the elephants will continue to look after them, he added.
Cambodia has long come under fire from animal rights groups for ubiquitous elephant rides on offer for tourists, also seen in neighboring Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.
The elephants are broken in during training and rights groups have accused handlers of overworking them.
In 2016, a female elephant died by the roadside after carrying tourists around the Angkor Wat temple complex in severely hot weather.
The animal had been working for around 45 minutes before she collapsed.