In Iran, a 22-month old baby girl waits. She waits to see her mother who languishes in an Iranian prison. She waits to see her father who sits in the United Kingdom, unable to see his wife or baby girl. She waits in a kind of limbo with her grandmother caring for her because she cannot leave Iran. She is a helpless pawn of the mullahs in Tehran who exercise with cruel indifference their whims to seize dual-citizen Iranians who take a risk to come back to Iran to visit friends and relatives or do work.
The mother being held in prison is Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian mother who has been held in solitary confinement for more than five weeks.
According to the Guardian newspaper, Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation as a project manager, was arrested at Tehran’s international airport by members of the regime’s Revolutionary Guard on April 3rd. She and her baby daughter, Gabriella, were about to return to the UK from a family visit in her home country.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe has since been taken to an unknown location in Kerman, 600 miles south of the Iranian capital, but officials have not yet commented on the reasons behind her arrest. She has not yet been charged even after five weeks in prison.
According to her family, she is not allowed access to a lawyer and is under pressure to confess to unspecified crimes.
“Nazanin’s parents have been told that they will be allowed a family visit tomorrow in Kerman,” her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said on Tuesday. Ratcliffe took the decision to make his wife’s ordeal public on Monday against what he said was the advice of the British Foreign Office.
Gabriella, who is solely British-nationality, has been placed in the care of Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family. The authorities have confiscated the girl’s British passport. Although Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a British citizen, she is not allowed access to diplomats from the British embassy in Tehran because Iran does not recognize dual nationality, thus treating her solely as Iranian.
“She is waking up in the middle of the night screaming and looking for mummy,” her husband Richard told the Sun newspaper.
The policy by the regime has been used time and time again to arrest other citizens, the most notable being Americans such as Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post reporter, Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor, and Amir Hekmati, a former U.S. Marine. All had been imprisoned by the Iranian regime, even though they are U.S. citizens and were only released after a controversial prisoner swap after the nuclear deal was completed, including granting clemency to seven Iranians and withdrawing arrest warrants for 14 others.
The chief executive of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Monique Villa, has urged Iran to release her immediately. “At the Thomson Reuters Foundation she has no professional dealings with Iran whatsoever,” Reuters quoted her as saying. “In fact, the Thomson Reuters Foundation has no dealings with Iran and does not operate in the country.”
An online petition posted on Change.org calls on David Cameron to intervene and use his position to press Iran for Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release. It has garnered more than 64,000 signatures in less than two days.
Villa’s statements eerily echo those made by the publisher of the Washington Post over Rezaian’s imprisonment and demonstrate the callous disregard the Iranian regime has for international law. Arrest of dual nationals and failure to recognize their legal status also mimics the policy followed by North Korea which often arrests foreigners on the same basis and denies them any access to legal representation or contact with the outside world.
In the case of Hekmati, he has decided to do something about the mistreatment he received at the hands of his Iranian regime jailers deciding to sue Iran for what he says was the brutal torture he endured during more than four years as a hostage, according to reports.
Hekmati filed a lawsuit in D.C. federal court on Monday.
Iranian authorities kept Hekmati in solitary confinement in a small cell for 17 months, whipped the bottoms of his feet, tased his kidney area, put him in stress positions for hours, hit him with batons, and severely deprived him of sleep, according to the lawsuit, reported by the Marine Corps Times.
In addition, Hekmati was forced to take lithium and other addictive pills, then stop taking them to induce withdrawal symptoms, the lawsuit said. He was also denied proper medical care and suffered severe malnutrition, it said.
Hekmati’s captors also told him his sister had been in a serious car crash, while his mother had been killed, but that he could not call his family unless he confessed being a spy for the CIA, the lawsuit claims. He was also moved to another prison where his cell was infested with rats, lice, fleas and bed bugs, it said.
The torture Hekmati and other prisoners receive often goes unreported as regime officials threaten prisoners with reprisals against family members should word get out about a prisoner’s mistreatment. The abuse is compounded by the tacit agreement by nations negotiating the nuclear deal not to link human rights abuses to the deal, thereby giving the regime what amounts to a free hand to abuse prisoners.
That broad appeasement of the Iranian regime was confirmed by news reports detailing how the Obama administration began negotiations with the Iranian regime’s most hardline leadership years before the election of Hassan Rouhani and how national security staff Ben Rhodes orchestrated a campaign of deception in securing a deal while pushing false messages about Iranian moderation.
The obscuring of the administration’s campaign over the details of the nuclear deal underwent even more scrutiny as Fox News reporter James Rosen revealed that video from a State Department press briefing two years ago showing possible deception by the administration had been deleted for unknown reasons.
So while baby Gabriella sits and waits, separated from her mother and father, the controversy escalates over the deception used to pass the Iran nuclear deal.
By Michael Tomlinson