Joy as UK nationals Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Ashouri reunite with family after long Iranian detention

Joy as UK nationals Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Ashouri reunite with family after long Iranian detention
3 min read
17 March, 2022
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anousheh Ashouri arrived home in the UK on Thursday, as rights groups condemned Iran for detaining the two women for years.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe arrived on UK soil in the early hours of Thursday [Getty]

The UK welcomed the return home of Iranian British dual nationals Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anousheh Ashouri as they were reunited with their family after years in Iranian detention.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Ashouri arrived in the UK  after being held in Iran for almost six and five years respectively in the early hours of Thursday, with an outpouring of relief about their safe return.

Many people expressed the opinion that their detention should never have happened in the first place. Jailed on dubious spying charges, the pair were released on Wednesday after the UK agreed to pay a historic debt to Iran.

The debt - reportedly worth £400 million ($520 million) - was believed to be a key sticking point for Tehran in negotiations to secure their freedom, with rights groups condemning the use of the pair as "hostages". 

"This is fantastic news, but it hasn't come a moment too soon... Nazanin and Anoosheh should never have been detained in the first place.. [they have] unquestionably been used as political pawns by the Iranian authorities... seeking to wring the maximum diplomatic value out of their captivity,"  Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s CEO said in a statement.

"It's been clear for years that the Iranian authorities are targeting foreign nationals with spurious national security-related charges to exert diplomatic pressure, and it's more important than ever that Britain works multilaterally to combat this insidious practice."

Zaghari-Ratcliffe's MP Tulip Siddiq - who worked hard for her release - shared her constituents' joy, stating that Nazanin's daughter slept in between her parents "for the first time in six years".

Ashoori's daughter also shared a picture on Twitter of both reunited families, stating it is "happiness in one pic".

Siddiq told the BBC that Nazanin was free due to her husband's relentless campaigning, stating that the Foreign Office had previously warned him against going public on the issue.

"He felt he had no choice to go public. I feel like that… was the right strategy because I think the government did respond to the public pressure and I think they do respond to media pressure," Siddiq said.

Liberal Democrat's Foreign Affairs Spokesperson MP Layla Moran echoed Amnesty's sentiments, saying: "It should not have taken years to reach this day... the UK government has questions to answer for whether their actions have prolonged this ordeal.

"We were told for a long time that the £400 million that has been paid as a legitimate debt was not linked. I am glad that it has been paid and that, in any way, it has led to the detainees’ release."