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.

Afghan govt. vows to probe civilian deaths in Kunduz airstrike

Updated 20 September 2020

Afghan govt. vows to probe civilian deaths in Kunduz airstrike

  • There have been conflicting reports from lawmakers and residents about number of fatalities
  • Taliban says none of its fighters killed in attack

KABUL: Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry pledged on Sunday to probe “allegations” of at least 12 civilians being killed in an airstrike targeting Taliban fighters in the northern Kunduz province a day earlier.
The pledge followed inconsistencies about the number of casualties, with the insurgent group saying that none of its men had died in the attack.
“The Taliban were the target, and 30 of them were killed. Initial reports indicate no harm was inflicted upon civilians, but we are probing reports by locals about civilian casualties. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces take allegations of civilian harm seriously, and these claims will be investigated,” Fawad Aman, a spokesman for the defense ministry in Kabul, told Arab News.
He added that the ministry would “share any details” about civilian casualties “once the probe is over.”
If confirmed, Saturday’s airstrike in the Khan Abad district, which lies nearly 350 km from Kabul and is mostly controlled by the Taliban, will be the latest in a series of air raids killing civilians in several parts of the country.
It follows a week after crucial intra-Afghan talks between the government and Taliban officials began in Doha, Qatar on Saturday, to end the protracted war and plan a roadmap for peace in Afghanistan.
There were conflicting accounts from civilians and lawmakers in the area about the incident, with two provincial council members, Ghulam Rabbani Rabbani and Sayed Yusuf, saying that at least 12 civilians had died in Saturday’s air raid.
“Since the area is under Taliban’s control, we have not been able to find out exactly how the civilians were killed,” Rabbani told Arab News.
Meanwhile, Nilofar Jalali, a legislator from Kunduz, offered another version of the attack, which she said “hit a residential area before sunrise when people were still in their bed.”
“Children and women are among the dead, and 18 civilians have also been wounded. I informed the defense minister about it; he said he will check and get back to me, but has not,” she told Arab News. However, Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, denied the reports in a statement on Sunday, saying that “no fighter of the group was killed,” before placing the number of civilian deaths at 23.
Kunduz and other parts of the country have witnessed an escalation in attacks by both the government and the Taliban in recent weeks, despite their negotiators participating in the Qatar talks which are part of a US-facilitated process following 19 years of conflict in the country — Washington’s longest war in history.
The Qatar discussions are based on a historic accord signed between Washington and the Taliban in February this year which, among other things, paves the way for the complete withdrawal of US-led troops from the country by next spring, in return for a pledge from the Taliban not to allow use Afghanistan to harm any country’s, including US, interests.
Kabul’s negotiators in Qatar are pushing the Taliban to declare a cease-fire, while the Taliban say it can be included in the agenda and that both sides must first ascertain “the real cause” of the war.
Some analysts believe that while delegates of the parties are struggling to agree over the mechanism and agenda of the talks in Qatar, their fighters in Afghanistan are “focusing on military tactics to capture grounds” so that they can use it as a “bargaining chip” at the negotiation table.
“Both sides think that if they have more territory then they can argue their case from a position of strength during the talks and use it as leverage,” Shafiq Haqpal, an analyst and a former university teacher, told Arab News.
“The sides have not yet agreed on the mechanism of the talks despite the Qatar talks, which began on the 12th of September. So, this is an indication that things are not going the right way politically, and both sides are trying their luck on the battlefield here.”