Seeing Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe reunited with her family was a bittersweet moment. On the one hand, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and joy. On the other, it hit home what this woman and her family had gone through. For six years, she has been used as a pawn. She has suffered horrific treatment, including solitary confinement, by an authoritarian regime. And for all this time, she was abandoned by her government.
In the context of this, I expected a few words of gratitude before seeking refuge away from the limelight. It is most probably what I would have done. I don’t think that I would have the strength to do more. Given the context of her ordeal, the strength she radiated in her first press-conference was staggering. She was also remarkably calm and measured. It seems astonishing, given the extraordinary suffering that she has experienced, how anyone could even contemplate attacking her.
Sadly, supposedly serious politicians and commentators didn’t get the memo. These cretins are proving themselves no better than internet trolls.
Let’s recap; what actually happened?
In April 2016, the Iranian government arrested Nazanin on grounds of espionage. She was sentenced to 5 years in prison. This sentence ended in March 2021, but she was quickly arrested on new charges and sentenced to a further year imprisonment. The entire thing was an obvious political game to extract concessions from the British government. Chief on the Iranian’s list was repayment of a £397m debt, owed because of a disputed arms contract.
The British government were reluctant to “pay for release”. The primary fear was that it looked and felt like a ransom. I can understand this fear. What I am less sympathetic to, however, is the lack of urgency by five successive Foreign Secretaries. Surprise, surprise – this includes Boris Johnson. So how did Nazanin finally get free? Well, the government paid the debt. Not out of altruism, but because they wanted access to Iranian oil. After six years, it took a war in Ukraine and rocketing oil prices to finally secure her release. There are rightly calls for an inquiry into what went wrong.
What has Nazanin said? Why are trolls attacking her?
In short, she criticised the government for dithering. Frankly, after six years, she owes this government nothing. In my view, she was actually extremely polite about a complete failure to help. Yet, the usual scumbags have come out in force to attack her.
I am not going to give them the oxygen of publicity. But they are the same people who have been accused repeatedly of colluding with Russia. It’s ironic that these whiners, who somehow have the front to call others snowflakes, act with such bravado. I would love to see how they would react were the situations reversed. I guarantee that they would be far less poised than Nazanin. To their credit, even Number 10 has come out and condemned her critics.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe deserves to be treated like a hero. If knighthoods had not been so sullied by recent events, I’d suggest she deserves the honour. But she has made it clear that she is more interested in reform. Her main call to action has been to take steps to ensure this doesn’t happen to anyone else. There are still at least eight other dual nationals held by Iran on trumped up charges. Britain should use this experience to combat this Medieval approach to politics.