28 September 2022

Father jailed for five years in Iran urges UK Government to act after protests

28 September 2022

A father who was jailed for five years in Tehran said he is “dumbfounded” by the UK Government’s inaction on the rising political tension in Iran, as he prepares to run the London Marathon to help British nationals “left behind” in his home country.

Protests in Iran have led to the deaths of at least 26 people, according to state TV, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in custody after being detained by Iranian morality police because her headscarf was allegedly too loose.

Anoosheh Ashoori, 68, was released from Evin Prison in the Iranian capital alongside Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in April and will run the marathon for Amnesty International UK – a task he started preparing for while imprisoned in what he called “the valley of hell”.

“What surprises me is that if it was, for example, Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, that would be another story – we have a woman as Prime Minister now who is being silent and is witnessing the murder of all these women,” Mr Ashoori, from Lee, south-east London, told the PA news agency.

“I’m dumbfounded. They are silent about it.

“Whereas if it’s Ukraine, if it is other places (they) prefer to concentrate on, I think they should be the same with people of Iran because women have been deprived for all these years.”

“The British Government has to come out of this inaction, (it) has to take this into serious consideration… Otherwise, I don’t know how they are going to justify it for themselves.”

Mr Ashoori was visiting his mother in Iran in 2017 when four men forced him into a car, accusing him of allegedly spying for Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency despite having lived in the UK for 20 years.

“We drove off into one of the highways and I was given paper, I couldn’t read it properly because he grabbed it quickly after he gave it to me to read,” he explained.

“But it was my arrest warrant accusing me of cooperating with the Israeli intelligence.

“Of course, all of these (allegations) were false and the main aim was to have me arrested to give me a charge of that nature so that in the future they could use me as a bargaining chip – which they did.”

Mr Ashoori and Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe were released earlier this year after Liz Truss, who was Foreign Secretary at the time, agreed to settle Iran’s 40-year-old claim in relation to a cancelled order for British Chieftain tanks and a payment of almost £400 million to Tehran was made.

Mr Ashoori described his time in prison, while his family fought tirelessly for his release, as “a matter of make or break”.

“Those who couldn’t do it, they would have had to pay the cost by having nervous breakdowns, (or) self-mutilation, it was all done – it was all happening right in front of my eyes,” he said.

“So I had to pull myself together and think of a way to fight insanity.

“And that’s why I took (to) running, as a way of doing that.”

After being inspired by Haruki Murakami’s book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Mr Ashoori made a promise to himself that upon his release, he will run the London Marathon.

He and his 33-year-old son, Aryan Ashoori, have raised nearly £10,000 in total so far for Amnesty International and Hostage International.

“(Amnesty International) played a great role in the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and my release,” Mr Ashoori said.

“There are still British nationals left behind.

“And now that we are going through this recent crisis, their role has become more pronounced.

“They need every single penny that we can actually provide for them.”

Mr Ashoori stressed the importance of recognising what his people have gone through over the last 43 years, since the country became the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Forty-three years of agony, the people of Iran have been going through.

“Forty-three years of agony, the people of Iran have been going through,” he said.

“It is kleptocracy rather than only theocracy – it is the ruling of thieves and murderers.

“They are killing women, helpless women.

“A women’s movement is being turned into a democratic movement, and that has to be supported.”

Foreign Office minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon issued a statement following the death of Ms Amini in Iran.

“The death of Mahsa Amini in Iran following her arrest for alleged dress code violations is shocking. We are extremely concerned at reports of serious mistreatment of Ms Amini, and many others, by the security forces,” he said.

“We urge the Iranian government to investigate the circumstances of her death with rigour and transparency, and to hold to account anyone responsible.

“We call on Iran to respect the right to peaceful assembly, to exercise restraint and to release unfairly detained protesters. The use of violence in response to the expression of fundamental rights, by women or any other members of Iranian society, is wholly unjustifiable.”

To find out more about Mr Ashoori’s fundraiser as well as his son’s, go to: tcslondonmarathon.enthuse.com/pf/anoosheh-ashoori and tcslondonmarathon.enthuse.com/pf/aryan

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