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Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe – The case so far

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s seemingly interminable sentence has recently been extended by a year. The 42-year-old had ostensibly been on a family visit to Iran in 2016 when she was arrested

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s seemingly interminable sentence has recently been extended by a year. The 42-year-old had ostensibly been on a family visit to Iran in 2016 when she was arrested. At the time, she was just about to board a flight home to the UK with her one-year-old daughter. Originally accused of spying and trying to topple the Iranian government on evidence that was never revealed, Nazanin Zaghari -Ratcliffe has just completed a five-year sentence in Tehran. 

The case has been particularly notorious in the UK, as Zaghari-Ratcliffe was married and settled here. Having worked with charities in her 20s (including British Media Action an international development charity), she married accountant Richard Ratcliffe in 2009. She went on to have her daughter Gabriella in 2014. 

Amnesty International is actively campaigning for her release. The human rights organisation’s website declares her original trial and imprisonment to be unfair, stating that she was denied access to a lawyer and kept in solitary confinement for 8.5 months. Amnesty is now aiming to increase pressure on the UK government to increase support for her so that she can be released and return safely home to live with her family. 

An unfortunate intervention

The case has seen many twists and turns with reports that the dual British Iranian national Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has suffered both mentally and physically. In 2017, the then Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson made unhelpful comments regarding her reasons for visiting Iran in 2016, suggesting she had been there to train journalists. Having apologised for this inexplicable error, Mr Johnson then went to Tehran to meet his counterpart at the time, Hassan Rouhani, to negotiate her release. Appeals were also made for Zaghari-Ratcliffe to receive diplomatic protection from the UK government.4

The historic politics involved

By 2019, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was given diplomatic protection by the UK government making the case a formal legal dispute between the UK and Iran. This was, however, not the only legal dispute between Britain and Iran. In 1976 1750 Chieftain tanks were ordered by Iran from the UK. The payment made by Iran at the time of £600 million now has a disputed value of around £300 million. 

However, once the order had been placed and paid for, the Shah of Iran unexpectedly fell and the UK banned exports to Iran. With Iran demanding return of the payment since 1979, several attempts have been made to solve the issue since. These dealings were described in 2014 by Ben Wallace, the then Home Office Security Minister as “un-British, double-dealing and obfuscatory”.

Relations with Iran and the West have been further complicated by its nuclear status. In 2015 then President of the US, Barack Obama along with the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China, signed a nuclear limiting deal with Iran so that its nuclear aims remained “exclusively peaceful”. This meant the lifting of some sanctions on Iran. 

However, in a move greeted with international apprehension, his successor President Donald Trump went on to pull out of the deal and reimpose sanctions. Recent efforts by the new Biden administration, the UK, France and Germany to revive the deal are now coming to fruition and it is believed that serious progress has been made. 

The situation for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

In the midst of such international tensions, and continuous campaigning by her husband and others, Zaghari-Ratcliffe has continued to be held in Tehran. Having been moved to her parent’s home in 2020 due to the coronavirus fears with an ankle tag, she has remained restricted within a few hundred metres of this location. On 7th March 2021, the ankle tag was removed at the end of her five-year sentence. However, hopes for her release were quickly dashed as a new charge of propaganda against the regime resulting in a one year sentence was imposed against her on 14th March. This has prevented her from returning to the UK. 

Today (3rd May) news has circulated in Iran that the UK has agreed to pay back its’ debt of hundreds of millions of pounds for the Chieftain tanks. This has been linked in Iran with the hope of Mrs Zaghari- Ratcliffe’s release. From a purely humanitarian point of view, it is hoped that Mr and Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe will be soon able to be re-united and begin living a peaceful family life with their young daughter Gabriella. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

Shakoor Ahmed has worked in a number of roles in Education and is a qualified Teacher, Coach and Mentor..

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1 Comment

  1. Pam Elder

    4 May 2021 at 9:19 am

    Hope this families ordeal is over soon.Time to repay the money for the tanks not supplied.
    With the change in America’s position on the nuclear deal perhaps a way could be found to refund the money without breaching the sanctions that were imposed.
    Its all about the money.

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Politics

Putin’s United Russia party victorious in elections

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According to results on Monday, the United Russia party, which supports President Vladimir Putin, is set to win after winning the majority of votes. Until now over 99% of ballots are counted and according to the Central Electoral Commission, United Russia won 50% of it. 

This was shocking to the opposing party and the public, so the opposing party accused United Russia of fraud in the election. Their victory means the party will have two-thirds of their deputies in the 450-seat lower house of parliament known as the Duma. All this means that the party can push any law they want without having to rely at all on votes from other parties. Other parties, like the Communist party, won 19% of the votes, the New People party won just over 5% of the votes, and the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia and the Fair Russia party each won around 7.5% of the votes. This was not unexpected at all. The United Russian party was known to crack down on the members of other parties by jailing them, preventing them from joining elections, and by forcing them to leave the country.  The fact that the Communist party could even earn 19.4% votes is because the people were angry at the government. The anger was caused by price rises in everything, low wages, and the way the government handled the coronavirus pandemic. 

Not only was the election labeled as being rigged, but some Moscow-based communists called the public for a protest on Monday evening as well. However, the area where the protest was supposed to be held, was sealed beforehand by the police to prevent such incidents. The reason that some people believe that the election was not fair, is because candidates opposing United Russia had been ahead in more than half of the 15 districts that voted, but lost after the electronic votes were added. One of the communists, Mikhail Lobanov stated that “with such a colossal number of violations, the results of the State Duma elections cannot be recognized as clean, honest or legitimate.” A Foreign Office spokesman said that “(Russia had sought to) marginalize civil society, silence independent media and exclude genuine opposition candidates from participating”, adding “(in) a serious step back for democratic freedoms in Russia.” The European Union and the USA also condemned the votes.

The way that the United Russia party won votes was unethical and unfair. Even if the election wasn’t rigged, they prevented other parties from joining the elections, which is just as reprehensible.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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Sport

U.S. Olympic gymnasts speak out against sexual abuse by doctor

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Top U.S. Olympic gymnasts, including world renowned Simone Biles, have recently spoken out against the handling of Larry Nassar’s case by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Four elite gymnasts; Simone Biles, McKayla Maroney, Maggie Nichols and Aly Raisman spoke out emotionally about the sexual abuse and trauma they faced from Nassar’s repeated sexual misconduct as sports doctor for the Olympics. The testimonials presented before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday 15th September 2021 highlighted the walls of silence by FBI agents when told about the molestations. 

“I cried and there was just silence” McKayla Maroney testified, as she recalled telling the FBI the details of the sexual abuse she experienced.Aly Raisman said in the testimonial that the FBI “made [her] feel [her] abuse didn’t count” and tried “to nvince [her] that it wasn’t that bad.”

Raisman added that it took her “years of therapy to realize my abuse was bad, that it does matter” and all that was “needed was for one adult to do the right thing.”

Biles, the four-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time world champion — widely considered to be the greatest gymnast of all time — clearly stated “I blame Larry Nassar and I also blame an entire system that enabled and perpetrated his abuse”.

An internal investigation by the Justice Department released in July 2021 stated that the FBI made fundamental errors in the probe. Furthermore, the FBI did not treat the case with the “utmost seriousness” after the initial reporting of the abuse to the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis by USA Gymnastics back in 2015. 

The director of the FBI, Christopher Wray, has now also apologised stating, “kinds of fundamental errors that were made in this case in 2015 and 2016 should have never happened, period,” and that he is “deeply and profoundly sorry that so many people let you down over and over again.”

Biles testified “The scars of this horrific abuse continue to live with all of us … the impacts of this man’s abuse are not ever over or forgotten.”

Advocates for the women say as many as 120 athletes may have been abused by Nassar after the FBI first heard of the charges against the doctor. 

The shocking mishandling of this case, and the sexual abuse carried out by Larry Nassar must be looked into further and action must be taken for this prevented in the future. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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World

European Union legislators urge UAE to free imprisoned human rights activists

The European Union (EU) has urged the United Arab Emirates to release several human rights activists. This resolution was passed by the UN on Thursday 16th September 2021 requesting the immediate release of these activists, as it violated legal rights.

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The EU parliament condemned the actions of the UAE and demanded the release of dissidents imprisoned in the country. Namely, the release of Ahmad Mansoor, Nasser bin Ghaith, and Mohammed al-Roken. The parliament wants their “unconditioned release” but also the release of other Emirati political activists that have been held. In order to get their point across, the UN has stated that it will boycott next month’s Dubai Expo to “signal their disapproval”. The statement also highlighted that since 2011, the UAE has intensified “its crackdown on freedom of association, assembly, and expression”. The resolution also expressed their disdain by stating “in order to signal their disapproval of the human rights violations in the UAE, (the European Parliament) invites the international companies sponsoring Expo 2020 Dubai to withdraw their sponsorship and encourages member states not to participate in the event”. 

Ahmad Mansoor was arrested in 2017 after an unfair trial in which he was accused of “spreading false and misleading information over the internet, through agendas aimed at disseminating antipathy and sectarianism”. However, this charge was brought solely on the opinions he shared on his social media. He was convicted to 10 years in prison, fined one million UAE Dirhams, and will be under surveillance up to three years after his release. According to some letters published online in July, the clear mistreatment he faced in prison was apparent as well.

Mohammed al-Roken is a university professor and human rights lawyer who was arrested in 2012 over “establishing an organization seeking to bring about the government’s overthrow”, or more simply for being a “prisoner of conscience”. He was convicted of 10 years in prison as well. 

Moreover, Nasser bin Ghaith is an economist as well as human rights defender who was arrested in 2015 over tweets criticising Egypt. He was sentenced to 10 years for posting on social media in a critical way by UAE authorities. This resolution for their release was approved by the majority; it won the votes of 383 legislators

It is clear that action was needed against the violation of human rights being conducted by the UAE as the human rights activists have been treated very harshly in prison. Hopefully, this media attention draws light on this subject and brings forth positive changes to UAE aws. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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World

SpaceX launches four space tourists on a three-day trip in space

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Gone are the days when professional astronauts only traveled in space. Four “space tourists” or otherwise non-astronauts made history as part of the first all-civilian crew to orbit Earth on 15th September. This mission, called Inspiration4 is a three-day mission around the planet several times in low orbit. 

The launch happened between 8:02 pm and 1:02 am ET from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Brevard County, Florida. During the mission, the passengers will be aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule that detaches from SpaceX’s 200-foot-tall Falcon 9 rocket. Elon Musk’s rocketry company modified the top of the Crew Dragon capsule to add a massive window for the astronauts. 

The history of space traveling for non-astronauts

Of course, this isn’t the first time civilians have traveled to space. Christa McAuliffe, who was the first teacher selected to go to space as part of NASA’s Teacher in Space project, died in the space shuttle ‘Challenger’ in 1986. Additionally, during the 2000s, a cohort of wealthy individuals paid their own way to the International Space Station through a company called Space Adventures. 

This mission in particular, however, has been dubbed as the start of space travel in which people can experience space exploration. 

“Few have come before, and many are about to follow. The door is open now and it’s pretty incredible,” Inspiration4 commander Jared Isaacman said close to 10 minutes after liftoff, as heard on SpaceX’s livestream.

All about the passengers

Hayley Arceneaux is a 29-year-old cancer survivor and works as a physician assistant at St. Jude. She will serve as the flight’s chief medical officer, and will be the first person with a prosthetic body part to go to space. She is also the youngest American to go into space.

Sian Proctor, 51, a geologist and educator who was selected for a seat on this mission. She will be the first African-American woman to be a spacecraft pilot.

Chris Sembroski, a 42-year-old Seattle-based Lockheed Martin employee.  He won his seat through a raffle he entered by donating to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. He wasn’t the official winner, but his friend transferred his seat to him.

Jared Isaacman, 38, the billionaire who is personally financing this entire mission. He is the first to buy a trip to orbit on a SpaceX capsule. 

Goals for the Mission

Isaacman hopes that this mission will inspire space adventurers, that’s why the mission was named, Inspiration4. He’s also using it to highlight a $200 million fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Hospital. He has personally donated $100 million and this will be raised through online donations and an upcoming auction. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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World

Up To 240 prisoners escape nigerian prison

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On Sunday 12th September 2021, a prison break in Nigeria located in the North central Kogi State allowed at least 240 prisoners to escape. “The incident took place at about 23:45 hrs” reported Francis Enobore, spokesman for the Correctional Service.

A spokesman for the Nigerian Correctional Service said an unidentified gunman raided the correctional facility in Kogi’s Kabba district and “immediately engaged the armed guards in a fierce gun battle.”

The attackers blew up the prison’s perimeter fence on three sides to be able to break in, claims the Reuters news agency.

It was reported that one policeman was killed and another was injured. Another two security guards are also currently missing, as per the interior ministry. Eyewitnesses told local media that two security officers were killed at the Security Custodial Centre in Kabba but this is yet to be officially confirmed.

No group has been blamed or taken responsibility for the prison break. Authorities say

investigations are under way in an attempt to find the escaped prisoners and the gunmen involved in their escape. According to Enobore, a “recapture procedure” had been activated to find the fleeing inmates.

Such large prison outbreaks are not new for the country. Human rights groups say that Nigerian prisons are too often overcrowded with inmates and legal procedures are inefficient.

This incident has been the second prison break in Nigeria this year. Early this year on 5th Aprilthere was a similar attack on Owerri Police Headquarters, in south-eastern Nigeria where gunmen freed more than 1800 prisoners. The act was described as an “act of terrorism” by the nation’s President and was blamed on the country’s Pro-Biafra secessionists.

Nigeria has been struggling with perhaps its most dangerous security crises in recent years as insurgency, banditry, separatist conflicts and kidnappings for large ransoms continue to increase and keep the nation in a state of constant terror.

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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World

Iran’s attitude on the pursuit of nuclear weapons

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Whilst nuclear weapons are undoubtedly one of humanity’s greatest innovations, in August 1945, Hiroshima and Nagasaki were reduced to ashes in what is now perceived to be only a glimpse of the devastation that nuclear weapons can unleash. Since then, a fierce race has ensued amongst countries to acquire nuclear strength. As of today, only nine countries (UK, US, France, Russia, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, India and China) possess nuclear weapons, significantly shaping the political and military spectrum of the world today. It is an undeniable fact that countries with nuclear warheads have leverage over countries that do not. However, the right to possess such destructive power is a matter of severe contention amongst the international community. As the dangers of nuclear technology become more evident, the need to implement controls for the long term safety of mankind is essential but instantaneously the need to obtain it has escalated. 

These concerns have resulted in the enactment of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), signed in 1968, as a measure to reduce risks and aim for nuclear disarmament. The NPT has been signed by 191 countries and helped undermine nuclear developments in many regions of the world. However, it has not achieved its goal. Israel, India and Pakistan were never part of this treaty and were free to develop nuclear weapons. North Korea withdrew from the treaty in 2003 and devised its own nuclear warfare strategy. Signatories such as the United States and Russia, have publicly kept their end of the bargain and have not engaged in the trade of nuclear arms. Instead they have strategically placed their warheads in several countries including Turkey, Germany and Italy, fit for storage and deployment. The treaty is rendered largely ineffective as all parties have utilised loopholes or conducted procedures in secret to distribute and position nuclear warheads, affording them a political and defensive advantage. 

Recently, the US and Israel have been immersed in an intense negotiation targeting Iran’s nuclear program. The question that arises, is what gives nations the right to place sanctions on the nuclear programmes of other countries when they have developed their own and use it to drive their political and diplomatic ventures? And what threat does a nuclear powered Iran pose to the rest of the world?

Iran’s nuclear ambitions can be traced back to the 1950s when it was supported by the USA as part of the Atoms for Peace program. But since then much has changed. New alliances and interests have strained the US and Iranian relationship. Now, Iran is widely perceived as a terrorist funding, autocratic religious regime, but such a reputation has not stopped Pakistan, China, North Korea or Russia from helping set up Iran’s nuclear facilities. Mishandling of nuclear weapons is a concern that is not misplaced, but Iranian politicians have maintained that its nuclear program is entirely peaceful and focused for civilian use. However, it would be unrealistic to assume that Iran is solely engrossed in providing electricity and fuelling medical reactors. Twice this year former Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has indicated Iran has the capacity for 90% uranium enrichment, the requirement for weapons-grade uranium. This came as a swift response to Israel’s acceleration of military plans against Iran, with Rouhani stating it is Previously, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) had halted Iran’s uranium enrichment scheme by keeping it at a harmless level of under 5% enrichment. Trump’s withdrawal in 2018 from the JCPOA followed by severe sanctions on the trade and commerce in Iran, landed an alarming blow to its covid stricken economy. In retaliation, Iran has resumed its nuclear strategy at an accelerating pace causing Israel to assume there is an “existential threat” not only to the Jewish state but the Middle East region. 

The Iranian government repeatedly raises the allegation; why does Iran have to face consequences for breaches of the NPT when other nations do not? This is a fair accusation to make when it is known the USA tactically placed its nuclear warheads around the world and the UK has recently announced plans to increase its nuke count with no consequences. Hence, isolating Iran through sanctions and trade cut-offs as a technique to coerce its submission into another negotiation like the JCPOA, is on the table but may not materialise. Iran, having become politically isolated for a significant period amongst America’s allies in the Middle East could consider abandoning the NPT and following North Korea’s path of obtaining nuclear warheads. Should this happen, it would mean Iran is not bound by any international legislations as it formerly was, and there would be no authority to hold it to account – even for the sake of appearances. 

Israel’s ascendancy in the Middle East is another factor that causes friction as both countries are intrinsically opposed to each other. In an effort to stop either nation from unleashing an apocalyptic war, Europe and the United States seek to adopt diplomatic proceedings. But Iran’s aggressive attitude towards Israel implies it is adamant about sabotaging Israeli hegemony in the region and establishing itself as an equal contender. 

Would a nuclearised Iran unleash Ragnarok in the Middle East or is it simply a threat to the US and Israeli supremacy in the region? Was Khamenei’s fatwa against nuclear weapons a political sham or an indication of Iran’s pragmatic and rational thinking to put the international community at ease? These are the concerns underpinning perspectives on the Iranian nuclear program. It is important to consider that a nuclearised Iran would boast an assertive foreign policy and could also lead to arms supply with its neighbouring countries. The implications of such transfers are a threat to international security; especially if they fall into the hands of the many terrorist groups roaming the region. 

Ultimately, whilst the concerns of the western nations of a nuclear powered Iran are justified, it appears it is only matters of personal interests that will shape the nature of upcoming negotiations with Iran. Iran, like all other states in history, is interested in nuclear weapons for the security and protection of its borders. It is likely that Iran will accept the terms of another nuclear deal to maintain a diplomatic mien. Yet, the likelihood of pursuing its weaponizing strategies undercover remains and rests on the clauses of the new deal. 

All views expressed in this editorial are solely that of the author, and are not expressed on behalf of The Analyst, its affiliates, or staff.

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