AFP: Damascus expelled an American journalist working for Al-Jazeera to Iran after she tried to enter Syria illegally on an expired Iranian passport, the Syrian embassy said in a statement Wednesday.
WASHINGTON (AFP) — Damascus expelled an American journalist working for Al-Jazeera to Iran after she tried to enter Syria illegally on an expired Iranian passport, the Syrian embassy said in a statement Wednesday.
The embassy said Dorothy Parvez was put on a Caspian Airlines flight to Tehran on May 1, escorted by the Iranian consul in Damascus.
It said Parvez, who they identified with an Iranian name as Feiruz Parvez, was turned over to Iran because she was carrying an expired Iranian passport when she arrived in Damascus April 29, giving “tourism” as her reason for traveling to Syria.
“It is very regretful that a journalist working for a world renowned news agency such as Al-Jazeera International would attempt to enter a country on two illegal accounts: an expired passport, and by providing false information on official documents regarding her travel reason.
“It is even more troubling if her employer was aware of, and condoned, this illegal activity,” the embassy said.
Parvez, who holds American, Canadian and Iranian passports, had been missing since her arrival in Syria, with no explanation given by the authorities until Wednesday.
Syrian authorities have sealed off the country from the international press amid a bloody crackdown on protests against the regime of President Bashar Al-Assad.
Parvez’s fiance, Todd Barker, said Wednesday he was puzzled why she had been moved to Iran, adding he had no knowledge of her exact whereabouts.
“I don’t know why they would deport her to Iran,” Barker told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
“She was traveling on the Iranian passport,” he said, but in other circumstances when journalists were refused entry into Syria they were returned the way they came.
Barker said he last spoke with Parvez on April 28. The couple were engaged in 2010, but might accelerate their plans to get married “when she gets out.”
“There are moments that are unbearable and you get through them … you say, okay, I need to write this letter to this person and get them involved,” Barker commented.
A spokesman for Canada’s foreign affairs department, Alain Cacchione, told AFP: “We are very concerned about (Parvez) and are pressing for information about her whereabouts.”
“Canadian officials are engaging Iranian and Syrian authorities at high levels to obtain additional information,” he said. “We are seeking to provide consular assistance, as required.”
The Syrian embassy said she was detained in Damascus after a search of her luggage turned up a large sum of undeclared Syrian currency in cash and transmitting equipment.
“Seeing that Ms. Parvez’s Iranian passport was expired, the Syrian authorities contacted the Iranian embassy in Damascus in order to receive a laissez passer for her to travel, and was in turn extradited in accordance with international law to the passport issuing country,” it said.
“Indeed, in less than 48 hours of her arrival, and on May 1st, Ms. Parvez was escorted by the Iranian consul,” the embassy said.