Reporters Without Borders is very concerned about the fate of Homa Dorothy Parvaz, a journalist with US, Canadian and Iranian nationality working for Al-Jazeera English, who disappeared after arriving at Damascus airport on 29 April.
According to a statement issued by the Syrian embassy in Washington, the Syrian authorities deported her to Iran on 1 May. But Iranian foreigh minister Ali Akbar Salehi told the government news agency IRNA on 14 May that Iran had “no information” about Parvaz. This was the first comment by an Iranian official about the case.
“No one has heard from Parvaz for the past two and a half weeks,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The Syrian authorities finally said they handed her over to the Iranian authorities 15 days ago. But until then they said nothing about her whereabouts, with complete disregard for her family and for the media that employ her. This total lack of transparancy does not bode well.”
The press freedom organization added: “The Iranian information ministry says it has no information about Parvaz. If that is Iran’s official position, it means she has disappeared. If not, we urge the Iranian authorities to say where she is being held, to allow her to leave the country or to account for the charges against her if they decide to continue detaining her.”
Parvaz’s brother told Reporters Without Borders that the family had received no notification from the authorities in Tehran. “They should at least tell us why they are holding her. She did not even enter Iran voluntarily.”
According to the statement issued by the Syrian embassy in Washington, Parvaz tried to enter Syria with an expired Iranian passport and a tourist visa. After finding transmitting equipment in her bags, the Syrian authorities assumed she had come to cover the anti-government demonstrations. She was alllegedly deported to Iran on 1 May, less than 48 hours after her arrival. She was not allowed to contact her family or the US or Canadian embassies at any point.
The sequence of events shows that the Syrian authorities remained silent about her whereabouts for nearly two weeks. The Syrian government newspaper Al-Watan went so far as to report on 10 May that she had left the country on 1 May “without saying where she was going (http://www.alwatan.sy/dindex.php?idn=100992).”
Al-Jazeera had announced on 27 April that it was suspending all activities throughout Syria until further notice because of the many threats and acts of intimidation against its crews. Its Syrian employees were repeatedly threatened by the authorities, and stones and eggs were thrown at its offices.
Around 100 people demonstrated outside Al-Jazeera’s Damascus bureau on 30 April, accusing it of “lying” and “exaggerating” in its coverage of the anti-government protests that began in Syria in mid-March (http://en.rsf.org/saudi-arabia-from-tripoli-to-manama-no-let-up-02-05-20...).