Stratford demonstration as Nazanin's family keep her detention in the public eye
The fight to secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from Iran saw supporters call for action at Stratford District Council.
The 23rd of September marked Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s 2,000 day in detention in Iran and her family and supporters are urging the district council to push the Government to take action to secure her release as soon as possible.
The call is being made by Nazanin’s cousin Alex Loftus, who lives in the Southam area, with the backing of Liberal Democrat councillor Nigel Rock.
Nazanin’s husband Richard, the couple’s young daughter and the rest of her family, have worked tirelessly to keep Nazanin’s plight in the public eye and there are hopes that recently installed Foreign Secretary Liz Truss could make progress on her release.
Nazanin was detained whilst visiting Iran with her daughter in 2016 and sentenced to five years in prison on spying charges, which she denies.
She is currently under house arrest and still can’t leave the country.
Relations between the UK and Iran are difficult and the issue of an historic £400 million debt Britain still owes Iran over the sale of arms which were never delivered, has been seen as an explanation for Nazanin’s continued detention.
Speaking to the Herald Alex said: “It was back in 2016 Naz had gone over to Iran and Ricky was due to pick her up at the airport, he got a call saying there had been an issue with her passport and she wasn’t going to be on the plane. He wasn’t too worried at that point but as three or four days went by nobody heard from her. When we found out that Naz had been detained and that she’d been moved 1,000km to another part of the country, it came as a real shock to all of us.
“Gabriella was only 23 months old when her mum was detained, it’s been so hard for her, Naz isn’t there to take her to school, she gets asked where’s your mummy?
“For us as a family we believe that it makes a positive difference to Naz every time we talk publicly about it. We recently held a vigil in Leamington to mark the 2,000th day recently, it got covered by the national media and Naz sees all these things going on and it really lifts her spirits. We’ve got 3.3million people who have now signed the petition supporting her, this all really helps.
“In terms of the work the Government is doing to get her releases, I absolutely think they could be doing more, Jeremy Hunt did a lot by getting her diplomatic protection, but there seems to have been little progress since then, it’s taken a long time for the Government to say that Naz is being held hostage.
“All this leads back to this historic arms deal, it’s absolutely wrong what Iran is doing, but the Government should pay back the money it owes to Iran. They simply are not going to let her go until they do that. Naz has missed out on five years of Gabriella’s life, Naz’s life has been destroyed through no fault of her own. We have to be her voice over here because she can’t be heard.
“We are just a normal family, but we’ve found ourselves at the centre of global politics. We’re going to keep fighting until we get Naz home.”
Cllr Nigel Rock hopes Stratford District Council will follow the leader of Warwick District Council which recently expressed his support for government action to secure Nazanin’s release.
Cllr Rock said: “This sort of thing is clearly a difficult matter for any liberal democracy to deal with. Several foreign secretaries, including the present prime minister have not been successful in progressing this long running and distressing situation. It is quite wrong of the Iranians to link the hostage taking of Nazanin and others, to our debt from the 1970s as it appears they do.
“While such a linkage is clearly unacceptable, either we owe the debt or we do not. I believe that the UK government is concerned about the potential use Iran might make of the funds. Failing to pay a debt arising from a legal contract because the receiving party might spend the money in an unpalatable way to the payer seems to me an invalid reason in law.
“However, our government seems to agree the UK owes the debt and should pay up regardless. The matters are and should be separate.”