Missing Canadian journalist detained Syrian officials say
May 04, 2011 Lesley Ciarula Taylor
Iran’s foreign minister and human rights campaigner Bianca Jagger have joined the growing global movement to free a Canadian journalist believed held by the Syrian government.
Dorothy Parvaz, who holds Canadian, U.S. and Iranian passports, was working for the news service Al-Jazeera when she vanished after getting off a Qatar Airways flight in Damascus after flying there from Doha Qahar last Friday.
Syria confirmed they have detained Parvaz, Al-Jazeera reported Wednesday afternoon, according to the Associated Press.
, the Iranian foreign minister, said at a news conference that Iran wanted the Syrians to investigate.
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“I hope that it is not true, but if that is the case, then we demand the government of Syria to look into this,” Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said at a news conference.
Jagger, founder and chair of the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, spread the word of Parvaz’s disappearance Wednesday via the social media site Twitter.
Roughly 3,500 people by Wednesday morning had joined a Facebook group called Free Dorothy Parvaz.
Posters on the site asked supporters to send messages to the Canadian Embassy in Syria and for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to demand a response from the Syrian Embassy in Ottawa.
Fred Parvaz, who lives in North Vancouver, has asked people to write letters and put any kind of pressure they can on the Syrian government to release information on the whereabouts of his daughter, Canadian Press reported Tuesday.
Parvaz last heard from his daughter last Thursday, he said. The family is assuming she is being held at the airport, since she never checked into her hotel, he said.
“We’ve had no confirmation from the Syrian government about anything,” Parvaz’s fiance Todd Baker told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, where she worked as a reporter for about 10 years.
“The working theory is she is being held by the Syrian government and she wasn’t allowed to enter Syria.”
A graduate of the University of British Columbia, Dorothy Parvaz, 39, earned her masters in journalism from the University of Arizona, held journalism fellowships at Harvard and Cambridge universities and joined Al Jazeera in 2010.
Born in Iran, she moved with her family to Canada, where she went to high school and university. The Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, in a protest letter to the Syrian embassy in Ottawa, said she was travelling on her Iranian passport.
Al Jazeera English posted her photograph at the top of its website, calling for her release. “We want her returned to us immediately,” the site said Wednesday.
“Dorothy Parvaz is a dearly loved daughter, sister and fiancée,” the family said in a statement published on the Al Jazeera website.
“We haven’t heard from her in four days and believe that she is being held by the Syrian government. Dorothy is a global citizen — she grew up in Iran, UAE, Canada and the United States, where she became a determined journalist.”
Richard Evans, the president of Wolfson College in Cambridge, called on the Syrian authorities to guarantee Parvaz’s safety.
“It is with great concern that we learn that Dorothy Parvaz, a former Press Fellow of Wolfson College, has gone missing in Syria and is currently unaccounted for. We are anxious about her safety and well-being,” he said.
“We call on the Syrian authorities to respect press freedom, to guarantee Dorothy’s safety and to enable her to discharge the duties for which she has trained so assiduously,” Evans wrote.
An Al Jazeera spokesman said: “We are concerned for Dorothy’s safety and well-being. We are requesting full co-operation from the Syrian authorities to determine how she was processed at the airport and what her current location is.”
Media organizations, including Al Jazeera, have been restricted in Syria from reporting what activists describe as an increasingly violent crackdown by security forces on anti-government protesters.
Mohamed Abdel Dayem, Middle East and North Africa Program Coordinator at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), told Al Jazeera there was “strong evidence” to suggest Parvaz had been detained at Damascus airport.
“Obviously we are worried for the safety of Dorothy, specifically, as we are for numerous other journalists who are in government custody right now,” said Dayem.
Some Syrian journalists working for Syrian and regional outlets had been in custody for weeks, he said.