VANCOUVER — B.C. journalist Dorothy Parvaz was back in Doha, Qatar after being set free by Iranian authorities early Wednesday, her fiance said.
Todd Barker told The Canadian Press he received the call at 9:30 p.m. Pacific Time (12:30 a.m. ET) as Parvaz was clearing customs in Qatar.
“I looked at my phone, saw it was her number and God, it was as unreal as the moment when I got the call that she hadn’t been contacted in 24 hours.”
Her employer, Al Jazeera, also confirmed the release, saying she is “safe and well and back with us” in the capital Doha.
The Iranian-born Parvaz, who also has Canadian and American citizenship, was detained in Syria while on assignment for the Doha-based Al Jazeera’s English-language channel.
Parvaz, 39, went missing after leaving Qatar on April 29 for Damascus to cover the anti-government uprising in Syria. Syrian authorities said Parvaz was deported to Iran shortly after her arrival.
Iran had not commented on Parvaz until Tuesday, when its foreign ministry spokesman said she had tried to enter Syria with an expired Iranian passport and without proper press clearance.
Barker said Parvaz told him she was “treated very well, she was interrogated, but she’s fine.”
He said Parvaz would be returning to Canada at some point, but could not say when that might be.
“She can’t get to Vancouver fast enough, in my opinion,” he said.
An Al Jazeera spokesman said Parvaz ”has been in contact with her family, and we are with her now to find out more about her ordeal over the last eighteen days.”
The network said she was not allowed any contact with the outside world while she was detained.
After Parvaz was detained in Syria, a Facebook page entitled “Free Dorothy Parvaz” was created and attracted about 16,400 followers.
They include her brother, Dan Parvaz, who wrote on the page early Wednesday, “Finally, my sister is free.”
“And while I’m grateful to the Iranian government for her treatment and release, I’m more grateful to all of you.” he wrote.
“You kept the faith, made phone calls, wrote letters, rallied, watched the media … and never lost hope.”
Barker said he has no prior indication that Parvaz would be released and described her phone call as “out of the blue.”
“When you don’t hear from somebody you love for 19 days … you don’t know if they’re dead, don’t know if they’re alive, you don’t know if they’re being tortured.”
In Syria, the government of President Bashar Assad has banned most outside journalists and placed strict controls on the few media outlets remaining in the country.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said about 20 local and international journalists have been assaulted or detained in Syria or expelled from the country since the protests against Assad broke out in March.
— with files from The Associated Press