Activists criticise inadequate government action in #FreeNazanin campaign

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella.

Activists in Tower Hamlets have called for greater action from the UK government in the campaign to free a British-Iranian mother from detention in Iran.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a 37-year-old charity worker, was detained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard at Tehran Airport while returning home from visiting her family in April 2016.

After a secret trial, she was sentenced to five years imprisonment for attempting to overthrow the Iranian government.

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe has been campaigning for nearly 18 months for his wife’s release, which has included lobbying the Foreign Office to put more pressure on Iranian government.

However, campaigners have become frustrated with the UK government for not publicly calling for Nazanin’s release or stating her innocence.

Daren Nair, Chair of Amnesty International Tower Hamlets Group, has been campaigning alongside Nazanin’s family for over a year.

He told Eastlondonlines: “We want the British government to publicly call for the immediate and unconditional release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and allow her to return home to London with her daughter, Gabriella.

“To date, our government has only publicly stated that it has raised their concerns with their Iranian counterparts regarding Nazanin’s detention,” he said.

“This is not enough as Iranian officials need to hear the British government very clearly and publicly calling for Nazanin’s release and her speedy return to the UK.”

Nazanin’s husband Richard Ratcliffe

The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson recently mentioned the case while at the UN General Assembly in New York.

He said we wanted to improve on “very tricky relations” with the Iranians, which would depend on the resolution of “very difficult consular cases – in particular Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.”

Nazanin’s local MP Tulip Siddiq recently criticised the government for not acting because she is a dual-national.

She told the Guardian: “Our law must change to ensure greater protection when dual nationals are detained,”

“Foreign and Commonwealth Office staff care about Nazanin’s plight, but they are hamstrung by an approach that isn’t strong enough.

“The government must state that there should be no exception to taking clearly documented action on behalf of all UK nationals facing breaches of their human rights.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office did not respond to requests for comment.

Amnesty Internaitonal Tower Hamlets Group at a protest at premiere of Iranian film, The Salesman. Pic: Daren Nair

Nair and the local Amnesty group have been constantly fighting for Nazanin’s freedom, including by sending letters to the Foreign Office, holding a candlelit vigil outside the Iranian Embassy in January, and staging a protest in Trafalgar Square at the premiere of Iranian movie, The Salesman, in February.

The group have been trying to raise awareness across Tower Hamlets, including collecting messages of solidarity from the public at an event in Whitechapel in December 2016 and building a fake prison outside Shoreditch High Street station in March this year.

They are organising a candlelit vigil tonight, September 28 from 5pm outside the Iranian Embassy in South Kensington, as well as an event in October where origami tulips with messages of solidarity marking 500 days of Nazanin’s detention will be planted in Westminster.

They will also be meeting MP for Poplar and Limehouse Jim Fitzpatrick in October to discuss the case, and are organising a film screening at The Cinema Museum in London on October 8, where Richard Ratcliffe will be attending to talk about the case.

Join nearly a million people, who have signed an online petition calling for Nazanin’s release, or find out more about the campaign here.

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