Since April 2016, I’ve completed my A-Levels, moved to Scotland, finished two years of university, and lived in three different flats. Since April 2016, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained in an Iranian prison, away from her home, and her now four-year-old daughter, after what should have been a short trip to introduce her baby to her parents. Not only has the British-Iranian not actually committed any crime, but the supposed crime she has been sentenced for, would not exist if speech were freer in Iran. Last November, Boris Johnson claimed that she was there ‘teaching journalism’. His words have opened her up to more convictions. The state are detaining Zaghari-Ratcliffe on ‘grounds’ of teaching and promoting journalism (via the BBC Persian Service) against the sate which is banned in Iran.
In August this year, she was suddenly released, and was able to see her daughter – who has been forced to remain in Iran with her grandparents, having had her passport confiscated, and who, reportedly, can no longer speak English. After just three-days, Nazanin was summoned back to her cell, despite being told that her release would last longer.
There is no reason Nazanin and her daughter Gabriella should not have made it out of the airport. There is no reason Iran should refuse to acknowledge Nazanin’s dual nationality, thus preventing foreign ministries from accessing her. There is no reason for Gabriella to have had her passport confiscated, at the age of one. What kind of threat does an infant returning to at least one of their parents, pose for Iran?
I understand that the Iranian government are doing nothing but hinder, but the British Government – for this British citizen – must do more. After the previous Foreign Secretary (Boris Johnson) practically sealed Nazanin’s sentence, his replacement, Jeremy Hunt, has promised to ‘leave no stone unturned’ in pushing for her release. So where are you, Mr. Hunt? Why is Nazanin being hospitalised for panic attacks after her abrupt return to her cell? Why has Gabriella been estranged from both of her parents for two years, with weekly supervised visits to her mum? Why is Nazanin’s husband unable to enter Iran to visit his wife and/or infant daughter?
People ask me why I’ve never been to Iran: it’s a beautiful place, am I not interested in my own heritage? The truth is, I’m terrified of my heritage. Iran is a dangerous place, for those who remain, and those who have fled. I have never been, for fear that I will never get out. Though I no longer have an Iranian surname, though I never got dual nationality, it’s a risk I am not willing to take. When people like Nazanin, fluent in Persian, born in Tehran, educated, worldly, have no way of defending themselves against the Iranian Government, what hope have the rest of us? Equally, whilst this is ongoing, whilst we are not free to speak and learn and live in all walks of life in Iran, why would I want to be there?