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Journalist who vanished in Syria shows up in Qatar

Dorothy Parvaz, who holds U.S., Canadian and Iranian citizenship, was detained in Syria and then in Iran. She was trying to cover the uprising against Bashar Assad when she disappeared in Damascus.

May 18, 2011|By Borzou Daragahi | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
  • Dorothy Parvaz, who holds U.S., Canadian and Iranian citizenship, was detained in Syria and then in Iran.
Dorothy Parvaz, who holds U.S., Canadian and Iranian citizenship, was… (Joshua Trujillo / Associated…)

Reporting from Beirut — A former Seattle journalist, who disappeared 19 days ago after traveling to Syria on an assignment for Al Jazeera television, arrived safely in Qatar on Wednesday, the news channel said.

Dorothy Parvaz, a 39-year-old holder of American, Canadian and Iranian citizenship, arrived at the Arabian Peninsula home of Al Jazeera, on a flight from Iran after being out of touch for nearly three weeks, the station said.

"She has been in contact with her family, and we are with her now to find out more about her ordeal over the last 19 days," a statement quoted an unnamed Al Jazeera representative as saying. Parvaz's case illustrated the tangled ties that bind the security establishments of Syria and its sole steadfast regional ally, Iran.

Hundreds of journalists and political dissidents have gone missing in the violent crackdown to quash the vast rebellion against the rule of Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose regime serves as a conduit for Iranian influence and weapons along the eastern Mediterranean.

Parvaz disappeared April 29 on arrival in Damascus to cover the unrest. Syrian authorities eventually acknowledged detaining Parvaz but said she had been handed to the Iranian consulate within two days of her arrival and placed on a Caspian Airlines flight to Tehran. Syrians accused her of attempting to enter the country with an expired Iranian passport and intending to practice journalism without official permission.

By international law, she should have been deported to Qatar, where her arrival flight originated.

Iranian officials claimed to have no knowledge of Parvaz's whereabouts. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, ultimately the boss of the Damascus consular officials who presumably handled Parvaz's case, was quoted Saturday as saying he had "no information" on the case, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. Weeks earlier, he had called on Syrians to release Parvaz. Then on Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters in Tehran that Parvaz had violated laws by using an expired passport and attempting to enter Syria on false grounds, without admitting that Iran was holding her.

Parvaz's fiancee Todd Barker said late Tuesday that she had been held in solitary confinement in Tehran's Evin Prison, questioned and kept from contacting her family but had been treated well, according to the Seattle Times.

Within Iran's multifaceted national security establishment, different official and semi-official apparatuses often pursue divergent and contradictory foreign policies. Last year, former Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki appeared stunned as Nigerian officials accused Iranian diplomats in the country of running weapons through the country's ports.

According to Western diplomats and experts, Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard dominates foreign policy for the countries of the Middle East and maintains strong relationships with the highest levels of Syria's intelligence and security branches.

Parvaz joined Al Jazeera last year. She was educated in Canada and the U.S. and previously wrote for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

daragahi@latimes.com

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