Syria confirms missing former P-I reporter Dorothy Parvaz sent to Iran
Missing journalist Dorothy Parvaz was sent to Iran after she was detained last month in Damascus, the Syrian embassy in Washington, D.C., said on Wednesday.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Missing journalist Dorothy Parvaz was sent to Iran after being detained last month in Damascus, the Syrian embassy in Washington, D.C., said Wednesday.
Syrian embassy officials said in a statement that Parvaz attempted to illegally enter Syria through Damascus on an expired Iranian passport with "tourism" as her declared reason for travel.
"After further questioning at the airport and searching her luggage, airport authorities discovered a large sum of undeclared Syrian currency in cash, along with transmitting equipment," the embassy said. "Upon this revelation, Ms. Parvaz admitted to providing false information to the Syrian authorities regarding her status in Syria."
Parvaz, a former reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer who now works for the Qatar-based news channel Al Jazeera, had flown to Syria on April 29 from Doha, Qatar. Last week, Parvaz's family and Al Jazeera said Syrian officials had confirmed they had detained her. Parvaz holds American, Canadian and Iranian citizenship.
The Syrian embassy said that since Parvaz's Iranian passport was expired, the Syrian authorities contacted the Iranian embassy in Damascus and she was sent to Tehran on Caspian Airlines.
"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," the embassy said in its statement. "It is even more troubling if her employer was aware of and condoned this illegal activity, accepting to send her into such harm's way."
Al Jazeera, in turn, issued a statement that said, "We have now received information that she is being held in Tehran. We are calling for information from the Iranian authorities, access to Dorothy, and for her immediate release. We have had no contact with Dorothy since she left Doha on 29 April and we are deeply concerned for her welfare."
Osama Saeed, with Al Jazeera in Qatar, said, "We have no way of verifying where Dorothy is, but we continue to call for access to her and her release."
Parvaz's fiance, Todd Barker, said he was told she was deported to Iran on May 1 and Syrian officials provided flight information to Al Jazeera.
"Every day that goes by and we don't hear from her, it's not good news," he said from Vancouver, B.C., where he is staying with Parvaz's family. "We're extraordinarily worried about Dorothy's safety and well-being. If she was deported May 1, she's been in Iran for 10 days now and we've not heard from her. No one's heard from her."
Al-Jazeera said that on May 2, the day after she was reportedly sent to Iran, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said publicly he had no knowledge of Parvaz's whereabouts and urged Syria to look into the case.
Parvaz joined the English-language version of the Arab-oriented Al Jazeera in 2010 and had just returned from Japan, covering the earthquake and tsunami.
Parvaz worked as a reporter and columnist at the P-I, writing under the byline D. Parvaz. She also worked briefly at The Seattle Times.
Parvaz, 39, has been described as a tough, hardworking reporter who loves being in difficult situations.
Barker said the family is working with officials in Canada, which has a diplomatic relationship with Iran, unlike the U.S., which has no diplomatic relationship.
"As the family, we need to talk to Dorothy and we need to have Dorothy back. Regardless of who has her, we need to speak to her."
Barker said he continues to call her cellphone and it just goes to voice mail.
Alain Cacchione, with the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, said it is aware of Parvaz's deportation and is concerned about her whereabouts. "Canadian officials are engaging Iranian and Syrian authorities at high levels to obtain additional information," said Cacchione.
Meanwhile, friends and former colleagues of Parvaz's have been working for her release. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has been in contact with the U.S. State Department since she went missing.
A statement issued by her office said: "Senator Murray remains very concerned about Dorothy and continues to work with the State Department to ensure that everything possible is being done to secure her release and that Dorothy's family continues to receive the best information available."
Parvaz's detention has highlighted the worsening relations between Syrian authorities and Al Jazeera.
Al Jazeera reporters had been allowed to stay in Syria as other reporters were expelled, but two weeks ago, the station said it was scaling back its Syrian operations, citing harassment by security forces.
A wave of uprisings against authoritarian regimes across North Africa and the Middle East has prompted fears for the safety of reporters covering conflicts in the region.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) issued a statement Wednesday calling Parvaz's deportation "an irresponsible choice." In the statement, Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator, said, "given Iran's abysmal press freedom record, we are concerned about Parvaz's well-being. Iranian authorities must immediately release Parvaz, who has committed no crime."
CPJ went on to say that Iran, together with China, was the world's top jailer of journalists in 2010.
Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.
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