How Iran punishes dual nationals
The Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, whose administration is characterized as a moderate one, has frequently called for improving ties with the West, as well as encouraging skilled Iranians abroad to return to Iran.
Iran's ambassador to the UK recently boasted on Twitter that "The Iranian authorities have repeatedly given assurances that having dual citizenship per se is not considered a crime or violation of law, and no one is prosecuted [in the Islamic Republic] for that reason".
But, the latest development regarding the treatment of dual nationals contradicts the Iranian regime’s statements. As of today, at least 30 dual nationals are in Iran’s notorious prison, Evin. One prominent example that has attracted attention is the case of the British mother, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of the news agency, and she is still confined behind bars in Iran.
Iran’s president pointed out that Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being treated fairly. But, her treatment which has exceeded 1,000 days in prison as of January 2019, amounts to torture, her family has said while making an appeal for the United Nations to intervene in her case. Although the prison’s doctor has promised her medical treatment, the Iranian authorities are refusing to provide any medical assistance. The Labour MP for Hampstead, Tulip Siddiq, urged the British government to act because the treatment of Zaghari-Ratcliffe is “becoming a matter of life and death”.
The Iranian regime has regularly framed sudden deaths in its prisons, or through the interrogations, as “suicides”. One recent incident was the case of the Iranian-Canadian environmentalist Kavous Seyed-Emami. Without providing any valid evidence, Iran’s judiciary announced that the Iranian-Canadian environmentalist committed suicide in prison due to the evidence of spying against him.
The poor treatment of the British mother by the Iranian authorities has made her begin a hunger strike along with another female prisoner. They began their hunger strike on Monday and continued it for 72 hours. After it was completed, Zaghari-Radcliffe had lost 3 kilograms.
The Iranian regime has regularly framed sudden deaths in its prisons, or through the interrogations, as “suicides”. One recent incident was the case of the Iranian-Canadian environmentalist Kavous Seyed-Emami.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
The efforts carried out by the British government, to help release Zaghari-Ratcliffe or provide some medical treatment to her, have been fruitless. Britain recently warned the Islamic Republic that it is digging its diplomatic grave by the way that it is treating the British citizen. The UK’s shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, made it clear that “When the Foreign Office says Iran is holding Nazanin for diplomatic advantage, Tehran needs to realize that in fact, the opposite is true. For her every day they continue her unjust detention, they are simply burying their own diplomatic grave.”
It may come as a surprise to many policy analysts, politicians and scholars that Iran is ignoring the ongoing requests and warnings by the British government to release the 40 year old British mother, while the UK has been fighting on the side of the Islamic Republic to salvage the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, aka the nuclear deal, and preserve the sanction relief for Iran.
But the important issue is that, in spite of the fact that the ruling clerics of Iran desperately need the UK and other European countries to help Tehran economically, the Islamic Republic can not relinquish the main principle of its revolutionary ideology for the sake of the nation’s economic interests.
In other words, a crack down on dual nationals, foreign dissidents, and taking hostages are core pillars of the regime’s theocratic establishment which were set by its founder, Ayatollah RuhollahKhomeini in 1979.
Another important issue to point out is linked to the role of the judiciary system and the president. Some policy analysts may argue that the Iranian president or his foreign minister Javad Zarif ought not to be blamed because it is the Judiciary system, or more importantly, the Ministry ofIntelligence (Etela’at), that is bringing charges against foreign citizens and declining to release them.
Although, the Judiciary enjoys significant power in such matters, Iran’s President is not totally powerless. The Ministry of Intelligence works for the President, and it was not long ago that the Iranian President orchestrated the release of four Iranian-American prisoners. Showing the influence that he wields in releasing prisoners, Rouhani said to the reporters. “In the past, we have helped the American government regarding prisoners they were interested in Iran and there was some assistance regarding our citizens who were held in prison [in the US]. We have never opposed negotiations between governments to reach solutions.”
In conclusion, the treatment of dual nationals is continuing to deteriorate in Iran. Due to the core pillars of the theocratic establishment, the Iranian regime can not help but pursue its revolutionary principles which include targeting dual citizens. The West can assist its imprisoned citizens by imposing economic and diplomatic pressures on the Iranian regime and those organizations or authorities who are engaged in such human rights abuses.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh