Happy New Year Friends,
I know many of you will have seen the latest disturbing news of Iran’s treatment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, punishing her simply for planning to go on hunger strike in protest at being denied medical treatment.
As Nazanin’s plight becomes increasingly desperate, my good friend Tulip Siddiq – her constituency MP – asked an Urgent Question in Parliament this afternoon about the case.
In my contribution, I warned the Iranian authorities that – in a year when they will be looking for international support against America’s increasing economic and military threats – their continued abuse of human rights is sorely undermining that support.
You can read my speech below, and please as ever, let me have your thoughts,
Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this Urgent Question, and can I congratulate my friend, the Member for Hampstead and Kilburn, on securing it, and thank her on behalf of the whole House for her tireless campaigning to bring Nazanin home.
I can only echo what she has said regarding the latest terrible turn of events in Tehran: the denial of medical treatment to Nazanin and human rights campaigner Narges Mohammadi; their announcement of a planned hunger strike in protest; and the cruel, vengeful response of the Iranian authorities in stopping Nazanin’s weekly phone calls with her husband Richard and cutting her food rations.
This would be inhumane treatment for any prisoner, but to pile this torment on an innocent woman whose mental and physical health is already suffering is nothing but barbaric. So I join my friend in calling on the Iranian authorities not just to restore Nazanin’s basic rights but to restore her freedom without any further delay.
Because what they must remember is that we know they face a twin threat this year: from crippling US sanctions affecting their trade and investment prospects worldwide; and from dangerous military escalation, as the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia gear up for a more direct conflict.
And for those of us who look at those dual prospects with horror, and despair that the path of progress and peace which the 2015 Iran nuclear deal opened up is growing increasingly narrow, we also know Iran will need us to fight on their behalf to preserve that deal, to preserve trade and to stop the descent into war.
But every day Nazanin’s inhumane treatment continues, and every time we see fresh human rights abuses in Iran, it makes it more and more difficult to summon the stomach for that fight.
So will the Minister of State agree with me that when the Foreign Office says Iran is holding Nazanin for diplomatic advantage, Tehran needs to realise that the opposite is true. Because every day they continue her unjust detention, they are just digging their own diplomatic grave.