Released British Iranian detainee Anoosheh Ashoori struggling to adapt after Tehran prison 'hell'

Released British Iranian detainee Anoosheh Ashoori struggling to adapt after Tehran prison 'hell'
Anoosheh Ashoori said it is 'still quite a challenge' adapting to normal life.
2 min read
29 March, 2022
British Iranian dual nationals and former detainees Anoosheh Ashoori and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe were freed from Iran earlier this month [Getty]

A British Iranian national detained by Iran for five years until his release earlier this month is struggling to adapt to life back in the UK after enduring "hell" in Evin Prison.

Anoosheh Ashoori - who was detained in Tehran on "false" charges of spying in 2017 - told the BBC he can't believe he's back with his family after his five-year ordeal but said adapting to life outside jail has been difficult.

The 68-year-old arrived in the UK on 17 March - alongside fellow former dual national and detainee Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe - as the pair were freed after the UK settled a historic £400m ($520 million) debt with Iran.

Human rights groups and Iran experts widely believe the two were used as "hostages" by Iran to secure concessions from the UK.

"I sometimes say this cannot be true... I must be in my cell and I'm expecting any moment to wake up... so I'm preparing myself not to be too upset when I wake up... It's still quite a challenge for me to be easy with being here," Ashoori told the BBC.

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"Still at night sometimes I touch [my wife] Sherry's hand to see if this is real, if this is happening," he said.

Ashouri - who was sentenced to 10 years in prison - strongly denied the espionage charges against him as both his and Zaghari-Ratcliffe's families said they were being held as political prisoners by Tehran.

Ashouri has since expressed anger towards the British government for not acting sooner.

"It wasn't me who was important...It was the passport that was being arrested... but the holder of that passport was me," Ashoori said, questioning why the debt wasn't paid earlier, saying it "had to be paid... [so] why did we have to do through all these years?".

The UK government say they have been "committed to securing the release" of Ashoori.

A government spokesperson told the BBC "it was always entirely in Iran's gift to do this, but UK ministers and diplomats were tireless in working to secure his freedom".

The historic debt stemmed from a cancelled 1970s weapons agreement, in which Iran paid for 1,750 Chieftain tanks and other vehicles, almost none of which were delivered.