Nine months ago, I wrote about British-Iranian dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe being falsely imprisoned in Iran; this week, she has been moved from her cell to a psychiatric ward. Nazanin was reported as having told relatives “Prison is getting harder and harder for me. I hate being played in the middle of a political game. I just hate it.”, and she is not the only one being weaponised by the Iranian government.
Most recently, we have seen the emergence of the arrest of French-Iranian academic Fariba Adelkhah, yet again with no concrete reason other than vague speculation of spying. Conveniently, this detainment comes at a time of unrest between the two countries, as France scrambles to salvage the Iranian Nuclear Deal. Iran imprisons one of France’s top academics, conveniently a woman who has written in depth about modern Iran, post-revolution, and France’s ‘demands’ to have access to her seem to be worth nothing. So what is to be done?
In May, the UK advised dual nationals against all travel to Iran. The dangers of possessing a western passport as an Iranian national are undeniable, but people are being denied safe passage to visit family, a second home, to attend funerals, weddings, things that should not be complicated by the risk of being held political hostage somewhere you should be able to class as home. As foreign secretary, would-be Prime Minister Jeremy Hunt stated that this advice is only given “regrettably”, due to “having exhausted all other options”, and in the face of Nazanin’s treatment.
Surely, all options have not been exhausted. Regularly, dual nationals are being detained in Iran for no reason, and we are allowing this to continue. Nazanin and her husband exercised a hunger strike this month, but what has it gained? She now resides in a mental institute where her Iranian father is not allowed to visit her, and her British-born daughter cannot even access her own father for comfort.
Unfortunately, I don’t know exactly what can be done. I have not studied international relations, I am not a lawyer, I don’t know the pathway out of this. Nevertheless, I do know that there are too many people being detained for no reason, and Iran are getting away with it. Using just these two women as examples, we have people who are equally as British and French as they are Iranian, and yet the British and French governments seem powerless to helping their own citizens.
Is this what we want, to bow down and allow our citizens to be held hostage in fear of what the Iranian government might do? Whether that be further problematising the Nuclear Deal, attempting to halt British tankers, or anything else for that matter. Surely, having nations as powerful and influential as Britain and France allowing their nationals to be abused in this way shows a lot more about what countries who threaten us can and will get away with.