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Boris’ Blunder May Cost British Mum Her Freedom in Iran

Boris’ Blunder May Cost British Mum Her Freedom in Iran

By Struan Stevenson


The dangerous gaffe by Boris Johnson that has led to the jailed hostage Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe facing an extra five years in a hellhole Iranian prison is inexcusable. The British Foreign Secretary is well known for his gaffes, but making an ill-advised and completely unfounded comment about the dual-nationality British-Iranian mum, while giving evidence to the foreign affairs select committee last week, must surely rank amongst his most serious blunders.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a 38 year-old charity worker married to an Englishman. They have a 3 year-old daughter Gabriella. She was sentenced to 5 years in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison after her arrest at Tehran Airport in April 2016 as she tried to board a plane bound for London. Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the charitable Thomson-Reuters Foundation, was on holiday in Iran, bringing her baby daughter to meet her parents. She was found guilty on trumped up and bogus espionage charges, following a mock 45-minute trial. Full details of the charges against her have never been revealed, even to Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

Her husband has made frantic efforts to have his wife freed, disclosing that she is now desperately ill and suffering from extreme stress. Their baby daughter Gabriella, who is a British citizen, has been forced to stay with her grandparents in Tehran since Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed. Last weekend, the British mother was suddenly hauled before an Iranian court where she learned that Boris Johnson had told MPs at Westminster that she had been in Iran to train journalists. Armed with what they regarded as new evidence of her guilt in attempting to overthrow the Iranian State, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been told that she now faces a new trial which could see a further five years added on to her original cruel and unwarranted sentence.

The British mum has consistently denied that she was involved in any form of plotting against the State and certainly denies that she was in Iran to train journalists. She has always stated that she was simply in the country on holiday. Boris Johnson’s ludicrous outburst may now cost this innocent woman, being held hostage by one of the most dangerous and corrupt regimes in the world, her ultimate freedom.

It is well known that many thousands of women are in prison, guilty of nothing more than opposing the oppressive mullah’s regime, or attempting to uphold human rights. Iran, under the so-called ‘moderate’ leadership of President Hassan Rouhani, has in fact risen to the number one spot globally as the country that executes most people per capita. Over 3,500 men, women and often children, have been hanged since Rouhani took office four years ago. Executions are often carried out in public, as are other medieval and barbaric sentences such as floggings, amputations and eye gouging.

Iran is also the World’s Godfather of terror backing Bashar al-Assad’s bloody civil war in Syria, the ferocious Houthi rebels in Yemen, the brutal Shi’ia militias in Iraq and the terrorist Hezbollah in Lebanon. The Iranian regimes fingerprints are on every conflict in the Middle East. This is a country that should be openly condemned by Britain for its catalogue of human rights abuse and serial misogyny. Instead of making groundless and unsupported comments to the foreign affairs select committee, the UK’s gaffe-prone Foreign Secretary should have been clamouring for the release of an unjustly imprisoned young British mother. The Prime Minister - Theresa May - must now intercede to secure the freedom of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and at the same time she should replace Boris Johnson with someone who can be relied upon to uphold British values and protect British citizens who are being used as guiltless hostages by a criminal regime.


Struan Stevenson is President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA). He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), President of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and Chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East.

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