Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: A not-so-warm homecoming

After finally been released from detention and reunited with her family in the UK, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been met with racism, xenophobia, and sexism, and accused of being ‘ungrateful’ to a government that failed her.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: A not-so-warm homecoming

Imagine just for one moment being detained away from your family, friends and life you live for six years. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe unfortunately didn’t have to imagine, because she instead had to endure it, accused of being a spy and detained in Iran.

Now just imagine finally getting released and returned to your family, but being attacked by the public and certain sections of the press for looking  ‘ungrateful’ and ‘miserable’, whilst simultaneously being criticised for being 'too happy’. It took five foreign secretaries to get her out – with one being so poorly briefed he ended up getting her sentence extended by a year. What, exactly, should she be grateful to the government for?

Nazanin’s Story 

Nazanin is 43 and British-Iranian, a project-manager who had lived with her husband and daughter in London. 

Nazanin visited Iran with her daughter where she was accused of espionage and detained six years ago. Iranian authorities accused her of conspiring to topple the government but never filed official charges – The Iranian Revolutionary Guard would allege she had been leading a “foreign-linked hostile network”. 

These charges were unsubstantiated, and she has always vehemently denied any wrongdoing in Iran. Nazanin explained she was only visiting on leisure and to bring her daughter to visit her parents for Nowruz (Iranian New Year), and her employers corroborated that she was not there on their behalf.

Tragically, it appears she was merely a victim of politics between Britain and Iran; Britain owed Iran a debt of £400M, as the former failed to deliver purchased military gear as a result of EU sanctions on Iran in 2008. This led to a back-and-forth in the courts over not just the matter of the debt but also about interest. 

Jeremy Hunt’s appointment as foreign secretary had however represented somewhat of a turning point, because he recognised this was a legally owed debt and not some sort of illegitimate ransom demand. Frustratingly, ministers and officials refused to say why the debt had still not been paid to Iran.

A Not-So-Warm Homecoming

One would think the public would celebrate the fact that one of their own had finally been released. Unfortunately, you’d be mistaken.

The Great British public instead offered a not-so-warm homecoming gift of critique and the hashtag of #sendherback on Twitter.

I refuse to give any space to the frankly racist individuals who were spewing such nonsense on Twitter, so I won’t be embedding any into this article. However, Nazanin’s press conference on her return home became a major point of contention for them, where she proclaimed that “what’s happened now should have happened six years ago. I shouldn’t have been in prison for six years”.

All I can say is good on you, Nazanin. 

The government frankly failed her as a citizen, but were quick to try and claim credit for her release. The fact is that it is unlikely they would have negotiated her release at all if not for the situation with Ukraine, where they have been forced to reduce their reliance for Russian gas and oil.  

Indeed, it attests to how much the government had been dragging their heels for the previous six years. How is it that as soon as they needed to diversify their energy sources that they were suddenly able to negotiate the well overdue release of Nazanin?

Nazanin not only has nothing to be ‘grateful’ for but her homecoming reception has been disgusting. Racism, xenophobia and sexism has been levied against her after having spent six years in captivity, she’s not only owed an apology but an explanation from the government.

Header Image Credit: Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

Author

Dheeraj Chutani

Dheeraj Chutani Kickstart

Dheeraj is a recent postgraduate having graduated with a BA and MA in Politics from The University Of Leicester. He is interested in all things politics and current affairs but when he is not catching up with all the latest headlines, he enjoys reading, jogging, weight-lifting and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ).

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