Philippines grant Iranian beauty queen asylum following extradition request

"She will be getting out of the airport and coming into Philippine territory," the country's justice undersecretary said.

Bahareh Zare Bahiri (photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Bahareh Zare Bahiri
(photo credit: FACEBOOK)
Bahareh Zare Bahiri, an Iranian national and recognized beauty queen, has been granted asylum by the Philippine government after a nearly four-week stand-off in Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, because Iranian authorities had put a worldwide "red notice"  on her passport – alerting Interpol and requesting her extradition back to the Islamic Republic – and putting a temporary suspension on her international visa.
Bahari, 31, was notified about the notice upon her arrival at the Manila airport on October 17, after returning from a trip to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. It issued by Iranian authorities, citing a warrant for her arrest stemming from an alleged offense committed in Iran – a claim which the beauty queen vehemently denies.
Bahari, who has been living in the Philippines since 2014 and has not returned to Iran since, claims the charges are false and that the Iranian regime really wants to extradite her in order to charge her for political dissidence and for openly condemning archaic government practices in her home country.
“They will kill me”, Bahari told Britain’s Daily Telegraph last month, claiming that she feared for her life if she were to be deported from the southeastern Asian country. Bahari used her social media following to rally support from the international community, including Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.
“When I got out of Iran I started to be a voice of my people, especially women. I always think: ‘How can I make my voice louder?’ So I decided to participate in the beauty pageant. I thought it’d be a good chance to talk about politics," Bahari told the Guardian.
“The real reason [Tehran is seeking to extradite me] is that the regime is against political activists and is anti-women," she said. "They are trying to silence me, to scare other women in Iran to become quiet. The women of Iran are tired of this regime that doesn’t give basic freedom. When they come to the street, sharia police stop them and bring them to the police office: ‘Why do you wear clothes like that?’ It’s like we’re in prison," she continued.
"My wish is that my country will achieve freedom and equality," Bahari said in her candidate profile on the Miss Intercontinental pageant website.
The Philippine justice department gave Bahari refugee status on November 6, according to the document from the department. She has now been ordered to go to the Bureau of Immigration so that she may receive her official visa and registration certificate to work and live within the Philippines. Travel documents will also be issued to the Iranian national, to be issued by the Philippine government and its Justice Undersecretary, Markk Perete.
"She will be getting out of the airport and coming into Philippine territory," Perete said.
Before the asylum decision was made, Amnesty International described Bahari as "a vocal critic of the Iranian authorities and a public opponent of forced veiling. If the Philippines authorities send her to Iran, she risks arrest, torture and other ill-treatment, and unfair trial and imprisonment."
She represented Iran at the Miss Intercontinental Beauty Pageant held in Manila last year, and has gained wide publicity for her work as a model and actress within the country. She entered stardom in 2018, when she raised a poster of Reza Pahlavi, former exiled Iranian crown prince from the revolution of 1979 and harsh critic of the current Iranian government. During her catwalk,Bahari also wore a dress representing the flag of the ousted regime at the time.
Bahari has been studying dentistry in the southeastern Asian country since 2014, the same year she left the Islamic Republic, according to a Facebook video.
The decision to grant her asylum request was approved after Bahari revealed her deteriorating mental health due to her four-week detention in the airport – following fears she would be executed upon her deportation.
“I’m not in good condition,” she told the Guardian on Wednesday from the airport. “My hair has started falling [out, and is in] bad condition because of the stress. Sometimes mentally I become too sick... I have no privacy here, because there’s no door in the room, so I’m always worried when I want to change my clothes.”
“All the walls here are white, the bed is white, everything is white… there is always light here. When I check my phone, I can’t understand if it’s 7 a.m. or 7 p.m. I’m losing time; sometimes I’m losing my mind.”
According to Bahari's Facebook page, she is still reportedly holed up in the airport, fearing for her life if she leaves, acting on recommendations from her counsel - the day after being given asylum.
“I don’t need a government to spend money on me – I can stand on my feet. I just need a safe place to continue my life," she said.