By deporting Dorothy Parvaz, a journalist with triple citizenship, to Iran, instead of back to the Gulf state where she is based, the Syrian government has maliciously chosen to place her at risk of harm.
Iran, a close ally of Syria, does not recognize dual citizenship, and has a long history of imprisoning journalists, human rights activists and others perceived to be opponents of the government.
Tehran, which has yet to release a public statement about the case, should heed calls from Ms. Parvaz’s employer, Al Jazeera, to immediately release her.
Ms. Parvaz, 39, was born in Iran, but grew up in British Columbia and holds Iranian, Canadian and American passports. She flew from Doha, Qatar to Damascus April 29 to cover the Syrian uprising against President Bashar Assad, but never arrived at her hotel. Syrian authorities first said she had been detained, but then told Al-Jazeera this week that she was extradited to Tehran after trying to enter Syria illegally with an expired Iranian passport.
Syria is using this incident to send a message of intimidation to international correspondents attempting to cover the bloodshed and killings unleashed by government forces. According to reports, several people were killed Wednesday and hundreds arrested during the military attack on Homs, Syria’s third largest city.
Iran is reportedly assisting Syria in its efforts to ban journalists and choke off media coverage of the violence. “Syria considers those writing about the uprising as a form of destabilization and conspiracy,” said Ramin Jahanbegloo, an Iranian-Canadian and political scientist at the University of Toronto.
In Ms. Parvaz’s favour is the fact that her employer is Al Jazeera, a pan-Arab news channel, and not BBC. Still, there is much cause for concern. Other Iranian-Canadian journalists have been detained in Iran, including Maziar Bahari and Zahra Kazemi, a photographer who was beaten and killed in 2003 in Evin prison. Prof. Jahanbegloo was arrested in Tehran Airport in 2006 and charged with preparing a velvet revolution in Iran. Placed in solitary confinement for 125 days, he was repeatedly interrogated, and denied access to a lawyer and to Canadian consular officials.
Even though Ottawa has no ambassador in Iran and little diplomatic influence, Canadian officials should continue to lobby for Ms. Parvaz’s immediate release, and keep her case foremost in the public’s mind.