Philippines grants asylum to Iranian beauty queen

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines granted asylum to former Iranian beauty queen Bahareh Zare Bahari after being held at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) for 21 days.

Bahari left NAIA on Thursday, November 7.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) sent Bahari her notice of recognition on November 7, informing her that she has been granted the status of a refugee of the Philippines.

Bahari applied for asylum upon arrival at NAIA on October 16, where she was barred from leaving the airport after Iran put a red notice on her to Interpol.

Fearing retribution, Bahari applied for asylum here saying that 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. 

Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete explained that refugee pertains to the status, while "asylum is among the benefits granted to the holder of the status."

Other benefits include the permit to work here.

"If you intend to work, this Office can provide you a Certification for Exemption on Alien Work Permit from the Department of Labor and Employment," said the DOJ in the notice of recognition.

"We will likewise recommend to the Department of Foreign Affairs for the issuance of a travel document should you require it," added the notice.

Bahari has been studying dentistry in the Philippines when she went to Dubai, a move that she told The Guardian as being "an emergency measure to prevent her being forced onto a plane to Tehran."

Bahari also told The Guardian she has not been to Iran since 2014. But she represented Iran at the 2018 Miss Intercontinental held in Manila, where she waved a poster of Reza Pahlavi, a former crown prince and a critic of the Iranian leadership. She also draped herself in the former national flag associated with the collapsed Pahlavi dynasty. –

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.