Relatives of UK Hostages in Iran Spend Cold Night Outside Foreign Office
Richard Ratcliffe Enters 11th Day of Hunger Strike
British Government “does nothing to disincentivize Iran’s hostage-taking”
November 2, 2021 – Two British citizens spent the night in frigid temperatures outside the Foreign Office in London on November 2, 2021, in a bid to gain freedom for their loved ones who are unjustly jailed in Iran.
“Following a tradition among political prisoners in Iran of resorting to life-threatening measures to get their voices heard, two British citizens are camped outside the Foreign Office, urging their government to do more to secure their loved ones’ release,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“Countries currently seeking talks on Iran’s nuclear program should also be demanding the release of unjustly jailed dual nationals who are being used as bargaining chips by the Iranian government,” Ghaemi added. “A united international front on this issue is the path to ending this unacceptable behavior.”
One of the campaigners, Richard Ratcliffe, today entered his 11th day without food as he strikes for the Iranian government to release his Iranian-born British wife and mother of their six-year-old daughter, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (43), imprisoned in Iran since April 2016.
Aryan Ashoori, a relative of another imprisoned dual national, joined Ratcliffe for the night on November 3 to demand freedom for his father, Iranian-born British retiree Anoosheh Ashoori (67) who has been held in Iran since August 2017. His family members will be taking shifts joining Ratcliffe.
“I’m spending the night on Monday night… I would like to call on all MPs to address my dad’s case with equal treatment,” Elika Ashoori, Anooseh’s daughter, told CHRI.
“Our case has not received much attention, and the UK foreign office is still delaying a response to our application for diplomatic protection for my dad,” she added. “The sooner they grant him this, the sooner the MPs will treat his case as importantly as they do Nazanin’s.”
Dual Nationals Held by Iran as Bargaining Chips for Use with Other Countries
Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori were both jailed in Iran on manufactured and unsupported “national security” charges, after convictions that blatantly denied them due process and fair trial rights.
Like many dual nationals imprisoned in Iran, their cases are tied to Iran’s relations with other countries. In this case, their families have argued that the British citizens are being held as bargaining chips for Iran to secure payment for an old British military debt.
“Camping outside @FCDOGovUK with Richard Ratcliffe tonight on the 11th day of his #HungerStrike. 2°c, White Hall, London UK foreign policy reduced us to homelessness. We’re still strong,” tweeted Aryan Ashoori on November 2.
“In the final reckoning, Nazanin’s case is not a legal issue, it never was – the legal cases in the UK and Iran were long fig leaves for political games,” wrote the Free Nazanin campaign on October 24, 2021, the day Ratcliffe began his strike.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe is currently under house arrest in Tehran but could be returned to prison any day after losing her appeal against a second prison sentence of one-year in October 2021. She has already served five years in jail.
Anoosheh Ashoori’s request for conditional release and an appeal against his 10-year sentence was also thrown out in a Tehran court in October.
“They still do not settle the debt to Iran whose impasse in 2016 caused Nazanin to be taken,” wrote the Free Nazanin campaign on October 24 after Ratcliffe met with British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. “There is no legal impediment now, the Minister said.”
“But also they do nothing to disincentivize Iran’s hostage-taking, still refuse to use the word ‘hostage’ despite promises to Nazanin,” added the campaign. “They still seem surprised each time Iran escalates – but it still happens cost-free.”
A candlelight vigil is due to take place outside the Foreign Office on November 5, 2021.
At least 16 dual nationals and one foreign national were known to be held in Iran (either imprisoned or under house arrest and prohibited from leaving the country) as of November 2021, according to research by CHRI.