Iranian beauty queen wins asylum in Philippines

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An Iranian beauty queen sought by Tehran on criminal charges has been granted political asylum in the Philippines, an official said Friday, ending a three-week standoff at Manila airport.

Bahareh Zare Bahari, based in the Philippines since 2014, left the country on September 29 for Dubai and had no problems leaving the airport. However, on her return on October 7, the airport staff confiscated her passport and said that she had to go back to Iran because of an Interpol “red note” on her.

In an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya English Bahari said that the case against her is fake.

“What is important is that I can prove it is a fake because I was not in Iran from 2014 … up to now … I was not in Iran to do any crime. I think that is enough to prove that is a fake case against me,” she added.

Claiming Tehran wanted to punish her for opposition to Iran’s theocratic regime, Bahari then sought refugee status, holed up in a room at Manila’s international airport and using social media to rally support from the international community — including a plea to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

“They will kill me,” Bahari told Britain’s Telegraph newspaper last month, referring to Iranian authorities.

Philippine Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete told AFP that she had been granted political asylum, adding that she was detained because Iran had asked Interpol for help in arresting and returning her on assault and battery charges.

“She will be getting out of the airport and coming into Philippine territory,” Perete said, but declined to discuss the grounds on which she was granted asylum citing confidentiality rules in the United Nations refugee convention.

When asked for comment, a consular official at the Iranian embassy in Manila told AFP to call back on Monday.

She represented Iran at the Miss Intercontinental beauty pageant in Manila last year, and said Tehran wanted her deported because of her “political activity.”

Bahari’s Facebook page features a photo posted in August showing her wearing a dress resembling the Iranian flag used by the Shah of Iran’s regime, which was toppled in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In the photo, she is seen holding a spear with what appeared to be a photo of Reza Pahlavi, the toppled king’s son.

“My wish is that my country will reach to freedom and equality,” Zare Bahari said in her candidate profile at the Miss Intercontinental pageant website.

- With AFP