MANILA: An Iranian beauty queen, who sought asylum in the Philippines, is still in custody at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport almost a week after she was arrested.
Bahareh Zare Bahari, Iran’s representative to the 2018 Miss Intercontinental pageant, was barred from entering the Philippines last Thursday, due to an Interpol red notice. Bahari has been accused in an assault and battery case allegedly committed in Dagupan City in the Philippines, which she has consistently denied.
Speaking to Arab News by telephone on Wednesday, Bahari said authorities in the Philippines were keeping her not divulging details about the status of her asylum case. “Filipino authorities are not updating me. They said they sent a letter to Interpol in Iran to get an answer from them. So they told me I have to wait until Iran Interpol answers,” she said.
Bahari alleged that Iranian government was angry as she appeared at a pageant in January carrying a picture of Reza Pahlavi, an Iranian opposition leader and founder of the National Council of Iran. “I have used his photo in a beauty pageant and the Iranian government are angry with me. If I am deported to Iran, they will give me at least 25 years in jail, if they do not kill me,” Bahari said. However, Tehran has not commented on Bahari’s statements.
Speaking over the Interpol red notice, Bahari said that when she had traveled to the Philippines after a vacation last week, she did not encounter any problems with immigration authorities. However, she added that she was left surprised when she was intercepted at the airport in Manila and informed that she was on an Interpol list.
Bahari said her lawyer “had checked all records in the Philippines and with Interpol” but there was no record against her. She has also denied committing any crimes in Iran, or in the Philippines where she has been studying dentistry since 2014.
The Philippines Department of Justice (DoJ) Undersecretary and spokesperson, Mark Perete, said in a statement last week that Bahari remained in custody at the airport and “could not be sent back to Iran because she has filed an application for asylum”. He added that Bahari’s asylum application would be resolved “in due time”.