An Iranian beauty queen who has been detained at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino airport since Oct. 17 while she seeks asylum in the Philippines spoke out this week about her fears of being deported to Tehran and its effect on her mental health.
“I’m not in good condition,” Bahareh Zare Bahari, 31, told The Guardian from the airport on Wednesday. “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,” she added, “because there’s no door in the room, so I’m always worried when I want to change my clothes.”
Bahari has been stuck at the airport since Iran issued an Interpol red alert, claiming the beauty queen had assaulted an Iranian citizen in the Philippines.
She had told The Telegraph that the charges are a “big lie,” and Tehran is going after her because of her political activism and advocacy for women’s rights.
A Philippine official has said authorities weren’t aware of the alleged assault.
“The only reason she was held at the airport — and we really don’t call it detention, it is really restraining her from entering the Philippine territory — is only because of that red notice issued against her,” said Markk Perete, undersecretary of the Philippine Department of Justice.
Bahari, who is entering her fourth week at the airport, said in a Facebook post on Tuesday that if the Philippines grants her asylum, she would request a “special guard and a safe place to stay.”
“It is not possible [to] give me ID and say go to your home without security,” she wrote. “My situation is not like before Oct. 17… Because there are a lot [of] killers here in the Philippines that anyone can order them to finish [another]. And the regime of Iran will do that for sure.”
Bahari told The Guardian she sleeps in a constantly lit room and has to wash in public restrooms.
“All the walls here are white, the bed is white, everything is white… There is always light here,” she said. “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.”
Bahari had been studying dentistry in the Philippines since she left Iran in 2014 because of the limited opportunities for women, she wrote in her biography for the 2018 Miss Intercontinental pageant.
She stirred controversy earlier this year when she displayed a photo of Reza Pahlavi, the exiled son of the last Shah of Iran, during a pageant. She used the photo because “all news and media are ignoring my people,” Bahari said.
She continued to speak out about Iranian women’s rights this week.
“When I got out of Iran I started to be a voice of my people, especially women,” Bahari said. “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.”
She said the “real reason” Iran seeks her extradition is “that the regime is against political activists and is anti-women.”
“They are trying to silence me, to scare other women in Iran to become quiet,” Bahari said. “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 [and ask] ‘Why do you wear clothes like that?’ It’s like we’re in prison.”
Bahair sought asylum because she didn’t want to be forced onto a plane back to Tehran, she told The Guardian.
“I don’t need a government to spend money on me, I can stand on my feet,” she added. “I just need a safe place to continue my life.”
A decision on Bahari’s asylum claim is expected Monday, according to The Guardian.
Fox News’ Bradford Betz contributed to this report.
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