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Tulip Siddiq: What matters now is how Boris acts to help jailed Nazanin

OPINION: Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq says Foreign Secetary Boris Johnson must follow his gaffe by helping to free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

10 November, 2017 — By Tulip Siddiq

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella

AFTER 18 months of campaigning, the suffering of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is finally being treated with the urgency it deserves.
When I met her husband Richard in April 2016, the separation from his wife was recent and, while the anguish he felt was so clearly raw, the injustice was obvious from the very beginning. That it has taken a personal embarrassment for the Foreign Secretary to promise to visit Nazanin in Iran, or to even sit down with Richard, is nothing short of a disgrace – but one we have to work with.

Once the media storm dies down, it is important to remember that the clock is still ticking on Nazanin’s chances of freedom. For as long as the government fails to intervene effectively, the greater the likelihood of her further imprisonment.

The ultimate responsibility for her treatment lies with the Iranian authorities, but it is beyond belief that – 18 months into this scandalous case – Boris Johnson has been so utterly careless with the basic facts.

By repeating the key lie of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – that Nazanin was “teaching journalism” – he has abrogated responsibility towards a British citizen detained abroad. She was on holiday to visit her parents and the Foreign Secretary’s failure to initially say so was unforgivable. While his tone in the parliamentary debate was unacceptable, and his lack of contrition appalling, what matters now is how the Foreign Secretary acts. It is surely within the capabilities of our brilliant diplomats to bring her home, and he must lead them in doing so.

The United States, which has a far more adversarial relationship with Iran, has had notable success in securing the release of its citizens. By pointing to this, I am not seeking to diminish the complexity of Iranian internal politics, nor to negate the work of Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff supporting consular assistance cases such as Nazanin’s, but it is clear that this case requires gravitas, decisive action, and possibly considering more punitive action towards those holding her.

For too long, Iran has engaged in a pattern of arbitrarily and unlawfully detaining foreign citizens to settle internal political scores. It is my sincerest hope that Nazanin will be freed and that her case will be a watershed moment in securing the freedom of others.

In the pursuit of that goal, it is deeply regret­table that Britons are being let down by dangerous ‘gaffes’ from the very top of our govern­ment.


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