UK ‘took every precaution’ to ensure Iran debt repayments were not used for weapons

LONDON: Anoosheh Ashoori’s family say she struggled to get media and public attention while imprisoned in Iran because she was not seen as “highly relevant”.

Ashoori was released from custody on Wednesday along with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe after years behind bars.

Unlike Ashoori, the detention of mother-of-one Zaghari-Ratcliffe has drawn media attention around the world.

Elika Ashoori told BBC Radio 4 the family had experienced an “outpouring of love” since her father’s return, but said the last five years of his captivity had been very different.

“It was a very big struggle to get my father’s name out there,” she said. “We had a bit more success in the last year of our campaign thanks to the efforts of Amnesty and other organizations that eventually joined us.

“But, because of his name, his age, his appearance, the fact that we are adult children and we are not very communicative, so we could not really engage on a large scale with the media and the public, no matter how hard we try.

“But regardless of that, we were successful because he was included in the deal, so I think despite all those difficulties we were able to get a deal and keep his name there and keep the momentum going. for it to be included in the agreement.”

Ashoori was arrested in 2017 in Iran and charged with spying for Israel.

The release of Ashoori and Zaghari-Ratcliffe was linked to the payment of a decades-old debt of nearly £400m ($526m), linked to an arms deal with Iran’s pre-revolutionary government .

Elika said the family will always wonder if he could have been brought home sooner.

“Of course there is always this question which is something that we will obviously continue to campaign for once we regroup, because he was not the only one and Nazanin was not the only one caught up in the diplomacy of the hostages.

“The debt being paid managed to bring my father and Nazanin home, but there are also others, there are still dual nationals detained. Until we find the root cause of this problem, we will not be able to prevent cases from occurring in the future.”

She also warned that a single debt paid would not prevent Iran from employing the same “barbaric” tactics in the future.

“There is nothing wrong with pointing fingers and saying that the blame lies with this or that government – ​​at the end of the day, we are the collateral damage. By paying a single debt, we do not solve the problem. We need to get to the root of the problem and see why the world allows this barbaric practice to continue.

She added that her father was extremely angry with the Iranian government for the way he was treated.

Tana T. Thorsen