What lessons can Britain learn from Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's ordeal?

22 March 2022

12:01 AM

22 March 2022

12:01 AM

‘How many foreign secretaries does it take for someone to come home? Five?’ Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has spoken for the first time in public, giving a press conference alongside her husband Richard and MP Tulip Siddiq this lunchtime. She was grateful for her release from Iran, but also very clear that she wasn’t as thankful to the British government as Richard, who praised the foreign secretary and officials for saying they would bring Nazanin home and for doing that.

She argued that she should have been brought home six years ago, and that she had given up hope after hearing multiple foreign secretaries over the years assuring her that they would bring her home, and that it was eventually going to be one of them who succeeded. ‘It took a very long time for the politicians to sort it out,’ she said.

It was a moving session and there were moments where Nazanin declined to answer questions, including what it was like to be held in solitary confinement. She had, the room was reminded, endured nearly six years of significant trauma, and was extraordinarily dignified and restrained as she spoke. The Ratcliffe family has said that now this press conference is over, they want privacy while they rebuild their own lives and get to know one another again.

‘I feel I am retiring from campaigning,’ Richard said. But he made clear that there was a wider issue about how the government deals with hostages and that he hoped Parliament would ‘take up that challenge’.

The press conference also heard from Roxanne Tahbaz, the daughter of Morad Tahbaz, who is still imprisoned in Iran. The conservationist was supposed to have been brought home as part of the deal struck over Nazanin and Anoosheh Ashoori, but his family was ‘devastated’ to learn from the media that he was not leaving the country at the same time as the others.

Siddiq also said she had asked for an inquiry by the Foreign Affairs Committee into the government’s handling of the case, saying there were key moments which may have led to Nazanin’s arrest and imprisonment, including the detention of Iranian government officials who had come to negotiate the repayment of the £400 million debt in 2013.

The Ratcliffe family clearly hopes to disappear from public view. But their case will cause ripples through British politics for a long time to come.

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