LONDON: The family of Anoosheh Ashoori said they struggled to garner media and public attention during his Iranian imprisonment because they were not seen as “very relatable.”
Ashoori was released from detention on Wednesday along with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe after years behind bars.
Unlike Ashoori, the detention of mother-of-one Zaghari-Ratcliffe attracted global media attention.
Elika Ashoori told BBC Radio 4 that the family had experienced an “outpouring of love” since her father’s return, but said the last five years of his captivity had been very different.
“It has been a very big struggle trying to get my dad’s name out there,” she said. “We were slightly more successful in the last year of our campaign because of the efforts of Amnesty and other organizations that finally joined us.
“But, because of his name, age, his looks, us being grown-up children, and us not being very relatable, so we couldn’t really engage on a major scale with the media and public no matter how hard we tried.
“But regardless of that we have succeeded because he was included in the deal, so I think despite all that hardship we managed to strike a chord and keep his name out there and keep the momentum going for him to be included in the deal.”
Ashoori was arrested in 2017 in Iran and accused of spying for Israel.
The release of Ashoori and Zaghari-Ratcliffe was tied to the payment of a decades-old debt of nearly £400 million ($526 million), related to an arms deal with Iran’s pre-revolutionary government.
Elika said the family would always wonder if he could have been brought home sooner.
“Of course, there’s always that question which is something we will obviously be continuing to campaign for once we’ve regrouped, because he wasn’t the only one and Nazanin wasn’t the only one taken through hostage diplomacy.
"The debt being paid has managed to bring my dad and Nazanin home but there are also others, there are dual nationals still being detained. Until we get to the root cause of this problem we can’t prevent cases to happen in the future.”
She also warned that one paid debt would not prevent Iran from employing the same “barbaric” tactic in the future.
“It’s OK to point fingers and say the blame is with this government or that government – at the end of the day we are the collateral damage. By paying one debt we’re not solving the issue. We have to get to the root cause of the problem and see why is it the world is allowing this barbaric practice to continue.”
She added that her father was extremely angry with the Iranian government for the way he had been treated.