Iranian beauty queen stuck in Manila says Tehran has ‘fake case’ against her

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An Iranian beauty queen who has been stranded in a Philippines airport for three weeks after Iran issued an arrest warrant for her said that the case against her is fake in an exclusive interview with Al Arabiya English.

“There is a fake case against me,” said Bahareh Zare Bahari, who represented Iran at the Miss Intercontinental competition in 2018.

Bahari explained to Al Arabiya English via WhatsApp that she has not been in Iran since 2014, so she could not have committed any crimes on which the Iranian Interpol warrant against her could be based.

“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.

She noted that Interpol had sent two letters previously, but they had not provided a clear reason for her arrest, and alleged that the Iranian government was trying to use Interpol to arrest her for political reasons. According to Interpol’s website, it has an office in Tehran listed under National Central Bureau Tehran.

“[The Iranian government] try by cheating Interpol. You know it’s very easy for the Iranian government to make a fake case in Iran and then report that to Iran Interpol, and ask Iran Interpol to send a letter or email to other Interpol,” she said.

The case came to a head when Philippines immigration officers attempted to deport Bahari to Iran earlier this month.

According to Bahari, she left the Philippines in September 29 to 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.

“I sat on the floor to get the attention of the people because it was the only way to save my life,” said Bahari, recounting how she managed to avoid being deported. “If you deport me, I will be faced with at least 21 years or 25 years … maybe they will kill me,” Bahari says she told airport staff. Bahari’s friends then called the UN, who temporarily stopped her deportation.

She has since been holed up in Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, unable to leave while her application for political asylum is processed.

When asked by Al Arabiya English about the conditions of her stay, Bahari said “They’re nice to me. But there’s some lack of facilities: I was not able to take a shower from the beginning up to now, because the water is so cold,” adding that she is not allowed on the third floor of the airport where some showers are located.

Bahari said she is due to hear the result of her application for political asylum next week.

Although she is grateful for not being deported, Bahari said that she wants political asylum in a different country, as she feels like she is still in danger in the Philippines.

“My life is still in danger … I just hope they transfer me to another country,” she said.

However, she said that the institutions processing her application are waiting to hear whether Iran Interpol will remove the notice against her. Bahari isn’t hopeful for the outcome: “But I’m sure Iran will never, never do that, I’m sure that Iran will never say them truths.”

Bahari noted that she nevertheless is receiving support from “the Iranian people” and journalists across the world, as well as a political organization which had paid for her lawyers. Despite that, the notice against her appears to have not been removed.

Iran has recently been criticized for human rights abuses, including the detainment of various foreign nationals on charges of espionage. Bahari linked her case to wider persecution by the Iranian regime.

“It’s not just about me ... Right now, I am like a symbol that is saying the Iranian [people’s] message to the world. They are trying to say to the world that they don’t want this terrorist regime. They want to change this regime and be in peace and relations with all countries.”

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