Anguish for jailed UK-Iranian mum at sending daughter to Britain

Updated 05 October 2019

Anguish for jailed UK-Iranian mum at sending daughter to Britain

  • Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s daughter has been staying with relatives in Iran since her mother’s detention and visiting her in jail each week
  • She was arrested in April 2016 as she was leaving Iran after taking their then 22-month-old daughter to visit her family

LONDON: The husband of a British-Iranian mother jailed in Tehran since 2016 said on Saturday the couple’s decision to send their five-year-old daughter to him in Britain to start school was “bittersweet.”
Richard Ratcliffe, whose wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is serving a five-year term for sedition, told AFP he is looking forward to seeing daughter Gabriella for the first time in more than three years.
But she has been staying with relatives in Iran since her mother’s detention and visiting her in jail each week, so he fears the impact of the change.
“It will be bittersweet,” Ratcliffe said, adding they hoped Gabriella will be back in London by Christmas.
“It will be lovely to have her back... and then also we will be weary of the fallout for Nazanin,” Ratcliffe added, noting Gabriella had been “her lifeline and that lifeline will have been taken away.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 40, stated in an open letter released earlier this week that Gabriella, who only speaks a few words of English, would return to Britain “in the near future.”
“My baby will leave me to go to her father and start school in the UK,” she wrote.
“It will be a daunting trip for her traveling, and for me left behind.
“And the authorities who hold me will watch on, unmoved at the injustice of separation,” Zaghari-Ratcliffe added, describing being apart from her daughter as the “deepest torture of them all.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in April 2016 as she was leaving Iran after taking their then 22-month-old daughter to visit her family.
She was sentenced to five years for allegedly trying to topple the Iranian government.
A project manager with the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the media group’s philanthropic arm, she denies all charges.
The case has unfolded amid escalating tensions between Tehran and the West, particularly with the United States and Britain.
Her detention in Iran has included a week-long transfer to a mental health ward of a public hospital earlier this year.
Husband Ratcliffe said they had applied for an exit visa for Gabriella but were unsure how long it would take.
“I would be very surprised if it doesn’t happen, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes a bit of time,” he added.
In her open letter, addressed to “the mothers of Iran,” Zaghari-Ratcliffe said she had little hope of being released imminently.
“My hope for freedom from my own country died in my heart years back,” she stated.
“I have no hope or motivation after my baby goes. There is no measure to my pain.”
In response to the letter, rights group Amnesty UK called on Tehran to free the mother.
“It’s time for Iran to end this cruel punishment,” it said.


Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

Updated 01 October 2020

Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

  • Captured gang tells of route to Yemen through base in Somalia

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: A captured gang of arms smugglers has revealed how Iran supplies weapons to Houthi militias in Yemen through a base in Somalia.

The Houthis exploit poverty in Yemen to recruit fishermen as weapons smugglers, and send fighters to Iran for military training under cover of “humanitarian” flights from Yemen to Oman, the gang said.

The four smugglers have been interrogated since May, when they were arrested with a cache of weapons in Bab Al-Mandab, the strategic strait joining the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

In video footage broadcast on Yemeni TV, gang leader Alwan Fotaini, a fisherman from Hodeidah, admits he was recruited by the Houthis in 2015. His recruiter, a smuggler called Ahmed Halas, told him he and other fishermen would be based in the Somali coastal city of Berbera, from where they would transport weapons and fuel to the Houthis. 

In late 2015, Fotaini traveled to Sanaa and met a Houthi smuggler called Ibrahim Hassam Halwan, known as Abu Khalel, who would be his contact in Iran. 

This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security.

Dr. Theodore Karasik, Security analyst

Pretending to be relatives of wounded fighters, Fotaini, Abu Khalel, and another smuggler called Najeeb Suleiman boarded a humanitarian flight to Oman, and then flew to Iran. They were taken to the port city of Bandar Abbas, where they received training on using GPS, camouflage, steering vessels and maintaining engines.

“We stayed in Bandar Abbas for a month as they were preparing an arms shipment that we would be transporting to Yemen,” Fotaini said.

On Fotaini’s first smuggling mission, his job was to act as a decoy for another boat carrying Iranian weapons to the Houthis. “The plan was for us to call the other boat to change course if anyone intercepted our boat,” he said.

He was then sent to Mahra in Yemen to await new arms shipments. The Houthis sent him data for a location at sea, where he and other smugglers met Abu Khalel with a boat laden with weapons from Iran, which were delivered to the Houthis.

Security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik said long-standing trade ties between Yemen and Somalia made arms smuggling difficult to stop. “This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security,” Karasik, a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC, told Arab News.

“The smuggling routes are along traditional lines of communication that intermix with other maritime commerce. The temptation to look the other way is sometimes strong, so sharp attention is required to break these chains.”