Last updated: 18 May, 2011

Al-Jazeera journalist missing on way to Syria free

An Al-Jazeera journalist of Iranian origin who went missing after arrival in Syria last month is free and back in Doha after having been deported to Iran, the news channel and her family said on Wednesday.

Dorothy Parvaz, 39, has “been released, and is safe and in good health,” Al-Jazeera said on its website, adding that she had returned to Doha from Iran, following her disappearance after having flown in to Damascus on April 29.

Al-Jazeera said Parvaz, who holds American, Canadian and Iranian passports, was “detained in Syria upon her arrival in Damascus 19 days ago, while on assignment.”

“During that time she was not allowed any contact with the outside world,” it added.

Syrian authorities had said she was expelled to Iran for travelling on an expired Iranian passport.

Tehran’s chief prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi on Wednesday confirmed that Parvaz was held in Iran for verification of her passport.

“This person travelled to Syria where they had objections related to her entry and passport and since she is a Canadian-Iranian national, she was sent to Iran,” he said, according to Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

“The Al-Jazeera journalist was referred to Iranian authorities and after verification it appeared that there were no problems with her passport and she was freed on Tuesday,” he added.

Iran’s foreign ministry on Tuesday said it was “pursuing” the whereabouts of Parvaz after the Syrian embassy in Washington put out a statement saying she was expelled to Tehran.

“We are pursuing the issue. Acquiring information about her situation is important for us,” ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters, stressing that Tehran did not recognise multiple nationality.

Al-Jazeera appealed to Iran last week for the immediate release of Parvaz. Both US and Canadian authorities had expressed concern about her case.

A page on the Facebook social network website titled “Free Dorothy, please urge Iran to release her immediately” has over 16,000 fans.

“Finally, my sister is free,” wrote her brother Dan Parvaz. “While I’m grateful to the Iranian government for her treatment and release. I’m more grateful to all of you.”

Her fiance Todd Barker earlier wrote in a message on behalf of Parvaz’s family that they had spoken to her. She was “safe in Doha and will be coming to Vancouver B.C. soon. We can’t wait to see her,” he said.

“She said that she was treated well in Iran … We are very thankful to Iranian authorities for her release and good treatment,” Barker added.

Syrian authorities have sealed off the country to most international media as they crack down on protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s government that erupted two months ago.

Syria has also accused Al-Jazeera and other satellite channels of exaggerating protests and of broadcasting images without verifying their authenticity.

Because few foreign journalists have visas to enter Syria, international media rely heavily on video footage filmed and released by the protesters themselves on Internet sites such as YouTube.