David Lammy – 2022 Speech on Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori

The speech made by David Lammy, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, in the House of Commons on 16 March 2022.

I thank the Foreign Secretary for giving me advance sight of the statement. For too long, the Iranian Government have been depriving British nationals of their liberty to use them as political bargaining chips. Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained in Iran for almost six years. Anoosheh Ashoori has faced the same fate for almost five years. The suffering they have endured during those years is unimaginable. The moments of laughter, joy and hope that they and their families have lost are irretrievable The Iranian Government are entirely to blame for these acts of cruelty. The whole House will be overjoyed that their detention has now come to an end, and that Nazanin and Anoosheh can return to British soil to be reunited with their families and take the breath of freedom once again. We must pay tribute to their tireless families, who have shown extraordinary strength, resilience and courage in the face of an unimaginable ordeal.

I also give credit to my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Kilburn (Tulip Siddiq) for all her efforts over so many years, and to my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham East (Janet Daby) for continuing to raise these issues. I give them credit for their tireless work in campaigning to secure the freedom of their constituents. We join the Government in thanking the Government of Oman for their help. I also give credit to the tireless work of British officials, as well as to the Foreign Secretary for her role in securing justice. She has shown more skills in diplomacy than her bungling boss, who appeared to do more damage than help while he held her current post.

Serious lessons need to be learned from this appalling episode. We need stronger international measures to combat the use of arbitrary detention as a political tool and to end hostage diplomacy. We also need a review of these cases. We need to understand what could have been done by the British Government to secure these releases sooner. I note that the Foreign Secretary said that she had

“stepped up these efforts over the last six months.”

I give her credit for that and welcome it, but I want to ask her what efforts were not taken by her predecessors that could have been. A review must also consider whether comments made by Ministers contributed to the extended detention. It is also good news that Morad Tahbaz has been released on furlough. Can the Foreign Secretary elaborate on the next steps to support his case? We note that other British nationals are still in detention and seeking help from the British Government. Can she update the House on the latest number and on what efforts are in place to help them?

We welcome the Government’s parallel announcement that the IMS debt has been repaid. We have long called for the Government to find a way to pay back that internationally recognised legitimate debt. What guarantees have the Government been given that this sum of money will be used only for humanitarian purposes? Today, though, let us focus on the main point of this statement. The whole House and the whole country can share in the triumph of welcoming Nazanin and Anoosheh home.