De Lima urges gov't to 'seriously consider' Iranian beauty queen's asylum application

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Leila de Lima on Sunday, November 3, urged the Philippine government to "seriously consider" former Iranian beauty queen Bahareh Zare Bahari's application for asylum in the Philippines as she remained stranded at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) for over a week now.

"[The] Right to non-refoulement, or the right not to be returned to a country where one would be at risk of persecution... for reasons of, among others, political opinion. This well-recognized principle under international human rights law should be foremost in the minds of relevant authorities... in tackling the situation of Bahareh Zare Bahari, a former Iranian beauty queen and now a dental student here in our country," De Lima said in a statement on Sunday.

"I urge our authorities to seriously consider Ms. Bahari’s application for asylum anchored on her political beliefs," she added.

What happened? Bahari, who arrived in the Philippines last October 16, earlier said she feared would be executed on politically motivated charges were she deported back to Iran.

The former beauty queen claimed her activism and criticism against the Iranian government, along with her advocacies for human rights and gender equality, led to trumped up charges filed against her in the Philippines and Iran. Iranian authorities put out an Interpol red notice on her, which led to her detainment in NAIA.

Bahari now fears Iran may seek to extradite her to have her detained or killed.

The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier said that it could not comment on the matter as Bahari's application for asylum was being considered.

Is it possible? De Lima sought to remind Philippine authorities that under Republic Act 9745 or the Anti-Torture Act of 2009, the right to non-refoulment was "formalized" in Philippine jurisdiction.

She also urged the Commission on Human Rights to look into Bahari's case as the institution tasked with upholding human rights in the Philippines. 

"Let’s do the right thing in the name of human rights. Let’s uphold and defend Ms. Bahari’s right to non-refoulement. Let’s save her from repression," De Lima said. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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