Europe

MP Blasts UK Government For Pushing Business with Iran While British Citizens are Hostages

A British Member of Parliament has accused the government of caring more about lucrative business deals with the Iranian regime than British citizens arbitrarily detained in the Islamic Republic.

In an essay published Wednesday in The IB Times, Tulip Siddiq, the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, wrote that the government was “unwilling to escalate action any further” to bring home British citizens “so as to not jeopardise the UK’s developing relationship with a state once viewed as irreconcilably hostile.”

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was visiting family in Iran with her toddler, was detained at Tehran’s airport in April 2016, separated from her child, and charged with the “design and implementation of cyber and media projects to cause the soft toppling of the Islamic Republic.” She was consequently sentenced to five years in prison for being accused of attempting to overthrow the government.

Until recently, conversations of temporary release were ongoing, but earlier this month Iran handed the British-Iranian charity worker new charges.

Since she was arrested at Khomeini Airport last year, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s physical and mental health has deteriorated and she was denied legal representation. Iran does not recognize dual citizenship and dual nationals like Zaghari-Ratcliffe are denied access to the embassies of their second nationality.

According to Siddiq, the policy of the British government towards Iran is inexcusable in the face of egregious violations of human rights.  “The problem with this approach is that while it may be reaping dividends for the shareholders of British companies expanding business with Iran, it is not providing anything that resembles payback for Nazanin or her family,” she said, adding that “A year and the half down the line, and with the very real threat of 16 years imprisonment now hanging over her, business as usual is simply unacceptable.”

Siddiq continued, “It is a sickening blow for the family to hear of British businesses striking $600m (£455m) deals for new solar farms in Iran, while the Iranian Authorities deny Nazanin’s human rights with apparent impunity.” She added that “in their quest to sensitively navigate a precarious situation, the government risks appearing to appease a regime making life hell for our citizens.”

The arrests of the dual citizens are frequently the work Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an arm of the Iranian regime that has just been designated by the Trump administration as a terrorist group in its entirety. A record number of dual citizens are currently lingering in Iranian prisons and have their basic rights denied.

In July 2016, the United Kingdom upgraded its warning to citizens traveling to Iran that they face a risk of being “arbitrarily detained.”

[Photo: Madad Shah / YouTube]