A Canadian journalist who was detained in Syria is now being held in Iran, says her employer, and Dorothy Parvaz’s family in British Columbia is anxiously awaiting any confirmation of her whereabouts.
On Wednesday, a statement from Al-Jazeera said Parvaz has been deported from Syria to Iran, where she also has citizenship, and is now being held in Tehran.
The English-language news network said Syrian officials previously said they were holding the 39-year-old journalist in Damascus, and that she would be released.
“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,” said the statement posted on the network’s website.
Parvaz’s father, Fred, who lives in North Vancouver, said someone from Al-Jazeera contacted the family to tell them that Syrian officials sent Dorothy to Iran but that has yet to be confirmed.
“My concern is her safety. The thing is that as long as she’s safe and she’s being treated with dignity, I’m OK with it, but I need some information. I need to get something out. I need somebody to say, yes, we have Dorothy,” Fred Parvaz told The Canadian Press.
There was no immediate response to a request for information from the Foreign Affairs Department.
Fred Parvaz said his daughter has an uncle in Tehran who could see her, if he’s given the opportunity and “if she indeed is in Tehran.”
He said it has been a “very intense, very stressful” time for the family.
Parvaz has Canadian, American and Iranian citizenships, and her Iranian citizenship should help if she is now in Tehran, he said.
“If she’s in Iran, they have a responsibility to treat her with respect. She’s going to be treated with dignity.”
He said he would travel to Iran if it is confirmed she is there.
Fred Parvaz said he was not aware his daughter was going to Syria at all until he was informed she’d been missing for 24 hours. But he knew of her dedication to her profession.
“She is a journalist. She wants to get the story out,” he said. “That’s the first mission of a journalist, is to tell the story.”
A graduate of the University of British Columbia, Parvaz joined Al-Jazeera’s English-language news network last year.
She was detained April 30 upon her arrival in Syria, where she had been sent to cover anti-government protests. Syrian authorities confirmed her detention last week.
Syria has sharply limited media access to the country following the uprising against the authoritarian regime of President Bashar Assad, one of the many nations to be swept up in the rising tide of popular revolt that has washed over the Arab world in recent months.
There was no immediate comment from officials in Iran, but if Parvaz is being detained it will serve as proof of a clampdown on journalists covering the uprisings in Syria and other Arab nations.
And a decision by Syrian official to send Parvaz to Iran could reinforce allegations that Iranian authorities are working closely with the Syrian government to crack down on protesters and choke off independent media coverage.
With files from the Associated Press in Dubai