Words mean nothing to Iran, action is needed

There was some good news over the weekend, as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was finally released from her five year prison sentence (recently served in house arrest) in Iran on spying charges. This meant that her ankle tag was removed and theoretically could have signalled the end of her ordeal.

However, even as we received this good news and that Nazanin was “genuinely happy” to be free of her tag the Iranian regime was already prepared to not let go. Thanks to her husband we know that the Iranian regime has already started the ball rolling on new “charges” against her. Court proceedings will once again be brought against Nazanin – starting on this coming Sunday.

What has the UK Government’s response been? It has only put out strongly worded statements and tweets criticising the Iranian regime. Of course, we expect the government to register its disapproval of what has been going on and treatment that Nazanin has suffered. However, to achieve the Government’s intention of seeing her “released permanently so she can return to her family in the UK”, surely more must be done than simply continuing on with the same diplomatic plans and strategies that have returned little to no reward since she was first charged and subsequently incarcerated last decade.

Of course, this is not only incident that should be informing UK policy towards Iran. According to the latest report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on February 23, 2021, the nuclear watchdog has found anthropogenic man-made uranium particles at two sites in Iran.

The Iranian regime had blocked access to these sites to IAEA inspectors for months. The regime has not yet answered the Agency’s questions relating to the possible presence at these locations of nuclear material. It seems rather clear that this is further evidence of Iran flouting the ineffective JCPOA treaty. Despite this international treaty, the regime has never given up on its strategic goal of acquiring nuclear weapons something that many nations have failed to adequately recognise or use the treaty to penalise non-compliance.

In yet another example of Iran’s rogue status, its diplomat Assadolah Assadi was sentenced to 20 years in prison in a Belgian court earlier this month due to his role in the attempted bombing of an Iranian opposition rally in June 2018. The Belgian security service has stated Assadi was not acting alone and was in fact acting on behalf of the Iranian regime – that “the plan for the attack was conceived in the name of Iran and under its leadership.” The West must not allow this sponsorship to go unpunished – the more that nations do nothing the more that Iran is emboldened to act in this way.

One way that the UK could start to take steps is to expand its opposition to the Iranian regime and its behaviour. For example, since the 1980s, thousands of Iranian women have been arrested, tortured, and killed by the theocratic regime because of their opposition and struggle for human rights, freedom, and democracy. Under the laws of Iran, women are systematically persecuted and discriminated against. The legal age for marriage for girls is just 13 with its laws promoting forced early marriage, child abuse, domestic violence, and honour killings while offering no protection and justice for victims of rape.

When will the West take steps against Iran, to at the very least downgrade their diplomatic relationship with this rogue, terrorism sponsoring, murderous regime? It will never be soon enough but perhaps International Women’s Day would mark a good time to make a stand – to take a stand for human rights and finally start to hold Iran to account.

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