This is how a future Boris Johnson government would stand up for UK citizens who aren’t rich Tories: It wouldn’t.
Mr Johnson has shown no interest in relieving the plight of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – the woman he condemned to a lengthier prison sentence in Iran by misspeaking about her reasons for being there, back in November 2017.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been visiting her family to celebrate the Persian New Year, but Mr Johnson told the Commons she had been teaching journalism – a crime in Iran that led the authorities there to consider increasing her five-year sentence.
Why did Mr Johnson do it? Was it incompetence? If so, then he must not be prime minister of the UK and we should all vote accordingly.
Was it racism? Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe is, obviously, of Iranian descent and we all know Mr Johnson’s feelings about Muslims. Again, this would make him unfit to be leader of an enlightened, non-racist, anti-Islamophobic nation.
Whatever his reasons for doing it – and for failing to secure her release in the two years since – Mr Johnson has just undergone an absolute rinsing from Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard.
In an open letter on the Change.org petition site where more than 2.6 million people have signed a demand for the Tory government to arrange Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release, he wrote:
“We last met in the aftermath of your misspeaking in Parliament about Nazanin, which were used by the Iranian regime to justify Nazanin’s second court case and a potential double sentence for her,” he wrote.
“Oddly you are yet to correct your comments … you never acknowledged Nazanin’s innocence.”
He wrote: “An unnamed Minister briefed a senior journalist at The Sun that Nazanin’s case had nothing to do with your mistake, but was over the UK’s arms debt to Iran (from a government company called IMS). When we asked you … you denied any knowledge of the briefing. The other Minister present left the room in shock.”
He wrote that it seemed a price was set for the debt to be paid and for his wife to be returned – but then Mr Johnson suddenly changed his attitude: “You suggested a change of plan, that I needed to wait quietly for a number of months and that my campaigning was damaging to Nazanin, an argument often made by Iran. You even suggested that my silence was actually the wish of my Tehran family.
“You will recall the messages we received from Iran in subsequent months that they were still waiting – for the UK ‘to pick up Nazanin’. And then the subsequent battles of me wanting to meet you with a lawyer present. But no subsequent meeting took place.
“You did not engage with Nazanin’s case again until the Conservative leadership campaign, by which time Nazanin was on hunger strike and I was camped outside the Iranian Embassy’s door.”
Mr Ratcliffe wrote: “You insisted in this summer’s TV debates that your words in 2017 had had no consequences. Plainly, that was false. Your allies went further on the airwaves claiming that those who sought to blame you were apologists for the Iranian regime.
“Sleeping hungry on the street, I took issue with your refusal to accept your share of responsibility for Nazanin’s suffering. Of course, politics is full of placebo promises. But promises made lightly by politicians can still weigh heavy on the shoulders of others. It was never the original mistake that caused my resentment, so much as the consequences of the cover-up.”
Mr Ratcliffe was saying that Boris Johnson told untruths in Parliament that caused the Iranian authorities to consider lengthening her sentence; that he then lied to both Mr Ratcliffe and the Iranian authorities about repaying a debt claimed by that country, in order to secure her release; that he tried to coerce Mr Ratcliffe into dropping his campaign; and that he tried to pretend that his actions had not caused any harm.
This is not the behaviour of a prime minister-in-waiting; it is the behaviour of a con-man – a liar who cannot be trusted to do anything if it doesn’t aid his own lust for power.
And what have been the consequences of Boris Johnson’s intervention in the plight of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe?
“Since we last met, Nazanin has been on two hunger strikes and has been admitted to a psychiatric hospital in chains. That second court case against her has been revived. She is explicitly linked to the UK’s debt case, even by the Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif at the UN a few weeks ago.
“Similarly, other British Iranians have been arrested and sentenced, particularly in Spring 2018 and again this summer. Developments in their cases have also been aligned to the UK’s IMS debt court process and its continued stalemate. The UK now has more prisoners held in Evin prison than any of its allies. Last week there was a new escalation against anyone connected to the British Council.”
That’s right – not only has Nazanin’s situation worsened, but Mr Johnson’s self-centred ignorance has led to the imprisonment of many more British Iranians.
This is the kind of help we can all expect from Boris Johnson.
Mr Ratcliffe makes this clear in his letter. He wrote:
“Your actions directly led to the imprisonment of other British Iranians… There are people in prison now, who would not be there if you had not made such promises and failed to keep them.”
Mr Ratcliffe went on to point out that Australia had managed to secure the release of two hostages since Mr Johnson became prime minister and that, when quizzed on the UK’s failure in contrast with this success, Mr Johnson’s minister blamed Nazanin’s dual nationality.
Here’s where Mr Johnson’s racism really bites: “The Government’s insistent emphasis on ‘dual national’ prisoners has dog whistle implications,” wrote Mr Ratcliffe.
“It helps reinforce the idea of a two-tier citizenship – between those who are ‘really’ British, and those ‘dual nationals’ the Government has less responsibility to protect.
“It brought back the line from a junior Minister’s comments at our very first proper Ministerial meeting, when we were told that the thing to remember about lots of these ‘consular cases’ is that while they had a British passport, many of them are ‘not really British.’”
That’s the fact of it, isn’t it?
Mr Johnson hasn’t helped because he doesn’t think Nazanin – or any other UK-Iranian citizens rotting in Iranian prisons – are “really British”. This is because he is a real racist – and one who blames the victims for his own faults.
Mr Ratcliffe wrote: “An emphasis on the fault of dual nationality sounds a lot like victim blaming.”
Not only that, but Mr Johnson is also two-faced: “Only a few weeks ago you met with President Rouhani in New York, all smiles, inviting him to visit the UK. I told the Foreign Office it would be astonishing for him to be afforded a visit while British citizens continue to be held hostage by his regime. Silence in the face of abuse is always enabling.”
Mr Ratcliffe observed that Mr Johnson’s government is more interested in corporate interests, and in covering up his own foreign policy mistakes, than in protecting the UK’s citizens.
He wrote: “Under your government we have again had Iranian trade delegations resume their meetings with the UK, and a renewed emphasis on business deals. This policy makes sense for corporate interests, and government promises of trade, but plainly it does not protect ordinary people’s lives.
“There is an accountability gap at the heart of Nazanin’s case. The mistakes of British foreign policy should not be falling on the shoulders of a mother and child.”
He wrote: “It is this accountability gap that creates the fundamental distinction inherent to the ‘dual national’ rhetoric – between the decisions of those who get important offices [Mr Johnson], or sinecures and fees to stretch this out, while those who reap the consequences of this get to sit in a prison cell [Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe]… This is the gap between those who profit from disregarding the UK’s internationally owed legal obligations [Mr Johnson], and those who get told to keep quiet [Mr Ratcliffe].”
The letter concludes with a plea for Mr Johnson to use his powers as prime minister to resolve the difficulties, arrange for Iran to receive payment of the debt that is holding up Nazanin’s repatriation, and to bring her home.
Some hope! It is clear that Mr Johnson does not care about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – or any of the other dual nationality prisoners – at all. He does not consider them to be UK citizens and sees them only as obstacles to trade deals for his rich business friends. Therefore they are to be ignored.
Boris Johnson doesn’t care about the suffering of ordinary people. He cares about riches and power.
That is the kind of man the Conservatives think should be the UK’s prime minister.
Mr Ratcliffe’s closing remarks put Mr Johnson in a nutshell: “Our story defines what a British passport is worth on your watch. The job of a PM is not just to make headlines, but in the end to make a difference. That starts with protecting citizens at their most vulnerable, home and abroad. Flowery promises do not keep people safe. In fact, undelivered they can have the opposite effect. Know that your actions cemented Nazanin’s place.”
Boris Johnson doesn’t care about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. In fact, he has probably forgotten all about her in the hustle of a general election.
But you should know that he would treat you in exactly the same way as he has treated her.
Nothing he or his party says about caring for the people is true. They care about themselves; they consider government to be about enriching themselves at your expense.
And the simple fact is that a Jeremy Corbyn-led government would do everything within its power to secure the release of an innocent woman from a foreign prison.
The moral of this story is that ultimate power over the fate of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe rests with you, the voter.
Will you support Boris Johnson, an avaricious racist who doesn’t believe this woman is “really British” and prioritises lucrative trade deals over ending her misery – in the knowledge that everything he has allowed to happen to her, he would also inflict on you?
Or will you help install a new government with a leader who has always fought racism, who stands up for ordinary people, and who will find a solution to this years-long situation as soon as he can?
Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.
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