Give #FreeNazanin campaign a boost with greater global effort

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nazaninI worked with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in London at the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Since she was imprisoned in Iran seven months ago, I’ve discovered her name means “sweetheart, lovely and delightful” in Persian. Those descriptives suit Nazanin’s character perfectly.

I don’t know her outside of work, but we chatted when we encountered each other in the corridors or in the lifts whirring up or down from the fifth floor of the Reuters building in London’s Canary Wharf business area.

The more I read about Nazanin’s imprisonment, the more horrified I become.

In September, according to her family, she was sentenced to five years in Evin prison on secret charges. This week the London Times newspaper reported that she is suicidal and has been on a hunger strike.

Is her employer doing enough to help generate publicity about her situation?

Although Nazanin is not a journalist, she is an employee of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, loosely affiliated with Reuters, one of the biggest and most powerful news organizations in the world. Surely that should be to her benefit.

Is it possible that the Iranians scooped her up because of her dual nationality and her association with a high-profile organization with many international tentacles?

Although the Thomson Reuters Foundation is a charity and in that sense separate from Reuters, like it or not, it is connected with the for-profit entity in some ways. For example, it carries the Reuters newswire service on its website and is headquartered in the same building.

Monique Villa, chief executive of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, has written several statements and attended a demonstration outside the Iranian embassy in London, which is helpful, but is it enough?

The statements distanced Nazanin from Reuters and the news gathering operation. That makes sense given what happened between Reuters and Iran a few years ago via the martial arts story that described women ninjutsu practitioners as assassins and given that Nazanin is not a journalist.

However, I’m wondering if the statements should increase in number and if they could be doing even more to point out how unjustly Nazanin is being treated.

A search of her name on the Reuters website yesterday indicated that nothing had been written about Nazanin since Sept. 22, despite the fact that other British news outlets were all over the story of her recent physical and mental decline. Could Reuters be trying to get this story first, rather than running a piece a day later?

Nazanin is now said to be held ransom for a weapons trade deal that the Iranians paid for 40 years ago, but that the British didn’t furnish. Allegedly, the Iranians are awaiting repayment.

Like Nazanin, I’m a dual national, although I have British and Canadian citizenship and she has British and Iranian citizenship. My passports advise that in the case of trouble in one country, I cannot expect the consular services of the other country to help me.

Is this true? I don’t think so.

Mohamed Fahmy, the Al Jazeera reporter who was imprisoned in Egypt for months was at the time a dual Egyptian-Canadian citizen. He renounced his Egyptian citizenship to benefit from a presidential order that allowed foreign prisoners to be deported.

Arguably, that presidential order would not have been decreed if it were not for the massive amount of pressure on Egypt in social and traditional media over the imprisonment of #AJStaff. Additionally, we do not know what lengths the Canadian ambassador went to in order to help gain his release even before Fahmy renounced his Egyptian citizenship.

Is it possible for Nazanin to renounce her Iranian citizenship?

We could all be doing much more to apply pressure on British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Theresa May, but at what point do they need to take the initiative to act on their own and openly share the results of their efforts?

I was shocked to read that the British ambassador to Iran has not visited her — if this is true, it is appalling. Not to mention that the re-introduction of a British ambassador to Iran in September while Nazanin was in prison raised many eyebrows, to say the least.

If Nazanin is truly being held for an ancient arms business deal gone sour, then it would seem to hardly be breaking any international UK policy that states refusal to pay ransom for kidnapped citizens. In this case, according to the London Times newspaper, the European court ruled that the UK should pay the money, but European Union rules prevent this from becoming an actuality.

Is Nazanin’s case complicated due to the fact that she is a woman?

If she were a man would there be a bigger public outcry and international effort?

Regardless of whatever aspersions have been cast about the role Al Jazeera played in the case of Fahmy and their two other imprisoned staff members in Egypt, indisputably, Al Jazeera played a massive role in publicizing the case.

Reuters aims to be the Swiss neutrality of journalism. Does this situation, which crosses into  a whole new territory require a different response given that a colleague and staff member has been unjustly imprisoned and her life is at risk?

For instance, could the Thomson Reuters Foundation add Nazanin to the agenda on its upcoming annual “Trust Women” conference on Nov. 30, rather than focusing narrowly on human slavery and trafficking?

Has human rights lawyer Amal Clooney been made aware of Nazanin’s case?

Clooney drew a great deal of attention to Mohamed Fahmy’s plight, which increased pressure on the Canadian government to help him. The same type of attention could make all the difference to poor Nazanin and her family.

What about a crowdfunding campaign to raise the alleged ransom money? A friend suggested it to me yesterday. If the 800,000 plus people who signed the petition were to donate even a pound/dollar each, a large portion of the ransom would be covered. If they donated a couple of pounds/dollars each, then Nazanin would be freed and have some money to spare to help finance recovery.

Just a few thoughts and I would be interested to hear the views of others.

Many, many frustrated people who have signed the petition continue to try to publicize Nazanin’s situation in solidarity on social media.

Are we going to stand idly by and wait?

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