‘No, Nazanin Doesn’t Need To Be Grateful To The Foreign Secretary’

The British public have turned on her for choosing not to thank Liz Truss, and we cannot ignore how race and gender plays a part in this immediate backlash.


by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

At Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s first press conference since arriving back in the UK, her first words were about how grateful she was. For two minutes and 30 seconds of fast speaking, she thanked everyone from politicians and the media sharing her story to family and friends who fought tirelessly to get her home. But for one moment, at the end of her long speech of gratitude, she chose not to thank foreign secretary Liz Truss because in her words, she ‘should’ve been home six years ago.’

For those that have followed Nazanin’s story, it’s an unsurprising reaction. In fact, it’s more surprising that she wasn’t violently angry at the British government. I would be. Nazanin was unjustly imprisoned, detained for six formative years of her daughter’s life, used as a political pawn for a British debt owed to Iran for more than 40 years.

Nazanin was tortured during that time, interrogated for hours often blindfolded, while in solitary confinement. She lost some of the most important years of her fertility in expanding her family, with Richard Ratcliffe telling Grazia last year that Nazanin ‘always wanted to come back and have another baby having lost our on Gabriella’s childhood.’ After all those frozen years, tests Nazanin underwent in 2021 showed she had less than 15% change of having another child.

In an interview with Grazia after her release, Nazanin’s local MP Tulip Siddiq explained it best. ‘Nazanin is not the same person who left Britain in 2016, she’s gone through incredible trauma,’ Tulip said. ‘It’s not just her physical health, it’s also her mental health. She’s had medical problems generally but she’s also been suicidal, close to death. Her hair has been falling out. There’s so much that needs to be addressed.’

It's no wonder she’s not thanking Liz Truss then, nor any of the five foreign secretaries that promised to get her home over the years and failed. And yet, the British public expects her to. In fact, they’ve turned on her because she chose not to. Yesterday, 'Nazanin ungrateful' was trending on Twitter and Google with countless tweets condemning her. Now, #SendHerBack is even trending.

It’s a vile, unempathetic response to an already harrowing story. And one must act, would the British public be so quick to turn on her if she were white, or a man? Because Nazanin was nothing but grateful in that press conference, just not to the people that allowed her to spend six long years being tortured in prison ignoring and avoiding a debt they would only come to pay anyway. She was even graceful in the way she explained that too.

‘The journey back home was tough, I grant what Richard said to thank the foreign secretary [but] I do not really agree with him on that level,’ Nazanin said. ‘I have seen five foreign secretaries changed over the course of six years, that is unprecedented given the politics of the UK. I love you Richard, I respect whatever you believe, but I was told many many times “We’re going to get you home” and that never happened. So there was a time that I felt, I’m not even going to trust you because I’ve been told many times that I’m going to be taken home but that never happened. How many foreign secretaries does it take for someone to come home?

Nazanin at the press conference
©Getty Images

‘What’s happened now should’ve happened six years ago, we all know how I came home,’ Nazanin said referring to the debt. ‘I don’t know the details but what took me home now… it should’ve happened exactly six years ago. We have gone through a lot… coming back to a daughter who is nearly 8, I left her when she was not even two.’

Anyone with a shred of empathy can see that Nazanin is entirely justified in this reaction. Even more so because there are other British dual nationals still unjustly detained in Iran – Morad Tahbaz being one, whose daughter Roxanne was sitting in the same press conference pleading for her father’s release. These are people who Nazanin has seen suffer in the same way she had, whose families have supported her and now, need her support too. How could she thank the foreign secretary knowing others are still locked up?

We should be thanking Nazanin for continuing to call out this momentous government failure.

‘I believe the meaning of freedom is never going to be complete until all of us who are unjustly detained in Iran are reunited with our families,’ Nazanin said. ‘To begin with Morad but also the other dual nationals, members of religious groups or prisoners of conscience.’

We must not forget that Nazanin’s experience over the past six years is completely unimaginable to the average person. Her trauma, her loss, all of those painful conversations with politicians making false promises, we cannot begin to understand how you would feel towards your own government after all of that. To expect any kind of gratitude off her is ludicrous, we should be thanking her still being strong enough to call out this momentous government failure – and in fact, we should be condemning all those in power that neglected her too. Nazanin deserves our support right now just as she did all those six years.

Read More:

'Nazanin Can't Believe She's Here': Tulip Siddiq On What Life Has Been Like For Nazanin Since Returning To The UK

Richard Ratcliffe: ‘Nazanin Was Taken Age 37, She's Now 43. Those Are Quite Critical Years To Lose If You're Trying For A Baby’

Richard Ratcliffe On Being Reunited With His Daughter After Three And A Half Years

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