Free Nazanin: ‘All the evidence of the last four years’ shows UK strategy to hostages in Iran isn’t working, says Richard Ratcliffe
- Credit: Archant
Richard Ratcliffe has called on the UK government to make holding his wife Nazanin – and others like her – “cost Iran something”.
Speaking after a BBC Panorama documentary alleged elements of the British government are resistant to paying a £450m debt the UK owes the middle-eastern country, which has repeatedly been linked to Nazanin’s imprisonment as an hostage, Richard said he was frustrated by the UK’s wider strategy.
He also revealed that foreign secretary Dominic Raab called around the families of Brits imprisoned in Iran “around six weeks ago”.
He said: “The foreign secretary called up a number of families to say ‘we are trying to do a real push’. I was reasonably sceptical, but said it was great they were trying.
“They have to increase the pressure and resolve the situation.”
It is well over four years since Nazanin was first arrested in Tehran’s airport, attempting to leave the country after a short holiday to introduce her parents to the couple’s then-infant child Gabriella.
Richard told this newspaper it is clear that the government’s strategy for dealing with Iran is not working.
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He said: “They (the UK government) are having their cake and eating it. They are trying to have a good relationship with Iran, encouraging businesses to trade with them.”
The West Hampstead dad said he was disappointed the diplomatic protection former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt awarded Nazanin in 2018 has not been made use of. It ought to mean that the dispute over Nazanin’s freedom is treated as one between the UK and Iran officially.
He said: “They won’t even visit Nazanin at her parents. Diplomatic protection is supposed to be a serious thing – having done that you should be able to show up for a cup of tea.”
Richard said continuing to hope for “Iran to do the right thing”, is not going to work.
“There’s no ‘do nothing’ option. It’s really quite disconcerting,” he said. “We will continue to suffer in public. I don’t think they can pretend away promises. All the evidence of the past four years shows that you can’t do nothing.”
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He added: “I’ll be damned if Nazanin is going to suffer more than she has already. The job of the government is to justify what it’s doing to protect its citizens.”
Nazanin’s situation is unique, as even under Iran’s own laws she should have received clemency, and she is the only known prisoner to be on furlough under the strict conditions – having to wear an ankle tag that confines her to within 300m of her parents’ home.
Despite a recommendation to the contrary from Iran’s Health Commission, she is prohibited from attending hospital to continue mental health and physical treatments she was able to get while inside Evin Prison.
Richard said the coronavirus outbreak and Nazanin’s release on furlough feel like a missed opportunity.
“It felt like we had an opportunity. Clearly Iran made the political space to release her, then decided not to,” he said. “Then I think we saw some warning shots to the British government.
“We have seen a number of other cases where people are being brought into court.”
Discussing Nazanin’s suffering, Richard said he has written a letter – hand-delivered by the UK ambassador to Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif – which calls on the Iranians to respect Nazanin’s human rights – particularly in relation to her fertility.
He cited the case of Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a British-Australian academic who has been moved to a notorious provincial jail in Iran and treated appallingly.
He added: “I don’t dispute that the foreign office are doing stuff, I just dispute whether or not what they are doing is going to work. Foreign office advice is always to keep quite, keep calm, and wait for Iran to do the right thing. That might work in the long-run, but in the long-run we’ll all be dead.”
The UK government has maintained that it remains committed to pushing for “the immediate and permanent release” of all dual-nationals locked up in Iran, and that the prime minister, foreign secretary and British ambassador in Iran are regularly lobbying for this.
The foreign office has said it is “unhelpful” to suggest there is any link between the UK’s debt to Iran and Nazanin’s imprisonment.