Iran’s treatment of dual citizens, to which men and women from all walks of life fall victim (including Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who was released after more than 500 days in captivity), never ceases to shock and horrify.
Just in case you thought things couldn’t get any worse (or even that they might be getting better), read the papers: according to recent reports, Iran has now surpassed even its own appalling record of arrests, solitary confinement and bogus charges.
The latest victim of Iran’s relentless campaign against dual citizens? Gabriella Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian whose passport was seized by the Iranian authorities, rendering her unable to leave Iran. Her age? Just two years old. How did she end up in Iran’s crosshairs?
Let’s go back to the beginning: this April, Gabriella’s mother, Nazanin, a British-Iranian charity worker, took her then 22-month-old daughter to Iran to introduce her to her Iranian relatives. However, she was arrested as she and Gabriella were about to leave Iran.
Nazanin has been in custody without charge ever since, spending over a month in solitary confinement; Gabriella, meanwhile, has been staying with her grandparents, whom she has only just met (according to her father, she cries incessantly for her mother). The toddler can only leave Iran with her passport, and with either her mother – who is imprisoned – or her father, a British citizen who, understandably, has been advised to stay away from Iran.
A few weeks ago, as we reported, “Homeland” actress Nazanin Boniadi published an appeal on CNN urging the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Now, as her mother languishes in captivity, little Gabriella too is getting media attention. The toddler recently had to celebrate her second birthday on her own in the Islamic republic, without either of her parents; her father, Richard Ratcliffe, sang “Happy Birthday” to her via Skype and left a card for her at the Iranian embassy in London. He wasn’t the only one; thousands of people sent Gabriella cards via Iranian embassies, her story touching hearts and making headlines all over the world.
Does Gabriella’s story indicate that tiny tots are the latest to be caught in Iran’s clutches? Are they, too, now suspected of espionage, or whichever other false charges Iran can cook up?