MANILA - An Iranian beauty queen who has been held for more than a week at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is seeking for asylum in the Philippines for fear of death or detention in her home country.
Bahareh Zare Bahari, who was Iran’s representative in the Miss Intercontinental 2018 pageant held in Manila, arrived in the Philippines from Dubai on October 16.
She is being held on the basis of a red notice from the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) for allegedly assaulting a fellow Iranian.
In an interview with the 31-year-old beauty queen, Bahari said she believes a high-ranking official of the Iran embassy is closely monitoring her activity in Manila for leading several anti-government activities in her home country for the promotion of human rights and women's rights.
She also claimed that the charges filed against her in the Philippines and in Iran were all trumped up.
"I've attended all the cases filed against me in different parts of the Philippines just to harass me and I have proven my innocence," she said.
Similar cases against her being an activist were also filed by the Iranian government.
Bahari, who was wearing a shirt with the old Iranian flag during the interview, said the shirt is banned in Iran and anyone seen wearing it will be arrested and detained.
She also believes she will be facing at least 25 years of imprisonment or even death if she will be brought back to Iran.
"I would be killed or detained for 25 years for criticizing Iran government if they bring me back to Iran," Bahari said.
Bahari has been studying dentistry in the Philippines since 2014. She has also worked as a part-time model in the country and has a valid student visa until this month when she was barred from re-entering the Philippines.
She has been staying in a bedroom in NAIA while waiting for the processing of her asylum request filed by her lawyer with the Philippine government.
Aside from Bahari, there are other foreigners seeking asylum in the country.
The government, together with the Board of Commissioners of the Bureau of Immigration and the United Nations, have to determine the validity of the request of the asylum-seekers before they can be granted asylum in the Philippines.
Bahari confirmed to ABS-CBN that she has been visited by a representative of the UN but she has not yet been updated about her request for asylum.
She can leave the country anytime as soon as there is a flight out back to Dubai, but she decided to stay in the country so she can finish her studies.