View from the house: ‘Decisive signal’ needs to be sent to Iran

The MP for Hampstead and Kilburn is currently Tulip Siddiq who will stand again in June

The MP for Hampstead and Kilburn is currently Tulip Siddiq who will stand again in June - Credit: Supplied by Tulip Siddiq

On July 21, the Judge responsible for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s imprisonment confirmed that she would not be given parole, or shown clemency on humanitarian grounds. Alone, this announcement was nothing new.

My constituent has now been unlawfully imprisoned in Iran for over two years. She has been given little cause to believe her release was imminent, suffering one setback after another from her prison cell.

What separates this announcement from the others was the judge’s comment to Nazanin that her release, temporary or otherwise, would not be forthcoming “until the UK government debt is repaid to Iran”.

In other words, she will continue to be held hostage by Iran, in defiance of international law, so that they may use her as leverage in a 40 year-old bilateral dispute. This is an outrage and must not be allowed to stand.

The development also renews my focus on the efforts of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to bring Nazanin home.

After Boris Johnson’s pledge to “leave no stone unturned” to secure the freedom of my constituent, progress has been underwhelming. With the exception of a first visit from the British Ambassador for Nazanin, his visit to Tehran produced little improvement to her plight. The one major unilateral call that Boris could have made – to grant Nazanin diplomatic protection – was delayed for months, still unresolved by the time of his “impromptu” resignation.

With a new foreign secretary arrives renewed hope. Jeremy Hunt is the Member of Parliament for a few members of Nazanin’s family.

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They say that he has previously been supportive in private and that is to be welcomed. For whatever disagreements we may hold over his record of managing the NHS, it is my sincere hope that I can work with Jeremy Hunt to ensure that Nazanin is back in West Hampstead as soon as possible.

I have therefore requested a joint meeting between the two of us and Richard Ratcliffe. At such a meeting we would ask the Foreign Secretary to make a prompt decision on whether the FCO will exercise diplomatic protection in this case. We would also ask him to clarify his view on the Government’s duty of care towards Nazanin. As Richard says himself, the Government has been coy over its obligations towards her and others in her situation. It is time the policy was clearer and offered more hope for those in such traumatic situations.

The latest developments in this case have created further adverse consequences for Nazanin’s physical health, which are compounded with the concern she holds for her daughter Gabriella, who also remains in Iran. She is due to start school in England in September, but cannot do so whilst her mother remains detained.

With these pressures adding to two years of humanitarian injustice, it is high time that the UK sent a decisive signal to Iran that it is not acceptable for a British citizen to be held as a bargaining chip in violation of international and Iranian laws. If the Foreign Secretary agrees to meet with me, that is exactly what he can expect to hear.