The Government need to step up and demand the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

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Monday 06 March 2017 14:51
Nazanin with her daughter Gabriella before they were detained by Iranian authorities
Nazanin with her daughter Gabriella before they were detained by Iranian authorities

Thank you to Peyvand Khorsandi for his reminder of our government's shameful reluctance to secure the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from Iranian imprisonment.

I was interested to hear that her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, has said that the government has “never once criticised Iran’s treatment of Nazanin, and abuse of her human rights, nor the arbitrary nature of her detention and trial”, and that his MP has repeatedly been denied a meeting with Boris Johnson.

When Trump tweeted his “policy” to ban US entry to Muslims from selected countries, Johnson pompously tweeted in response: “We will protect the rights and freedoms of UK nationals home and abroad. Divisive and wrong to stigmatise because of nationality.” This fine sentiment prompted me to ask him what exactly he was doing to protect the rights and freedoms of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

In response, the FCO claimed to be supporting Nazanin’s family, although this seems highly questionable in the light of Ratcliffe's reported comments. They also said that they continue to “raise the issue” with Tehran. I’d like to think this was diplomatic code for “working tirelessly behind the scenes” but I’m afraid it is more likely a brush off.

I am so desperately sorry for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family and the nightmare in which they find themselves. Boris Johnson should find some moral courage and, just for once, use his high office to benefit someone other than himself.

Beryl Wall London, W4

Do the SNP really represent Scotland?

The difficult position Nicola Sturgeon finds herself in is all of her own making. The latest opinion poll shows even more Scots are against the thought of an independence referendum than before, with perhaps a two to one majority wanting no more referendums until at least the outcome of Brexit is fully understood.

Previously the First Minister reassured us there would be not be another referendum unless we wanted one. Yet the Scottish National Party’s absolute focus on engineering a second referendum off the back of the Brexit result has led her to the point where the SNP faithful expect it to be announced at their spring conference in two weeks’ time. So what matters most, the people of Scotland or the SNP’s ambition?

Keith Howell West Linton

Theresa May needs a new speechwriter

In her speech last week to the Scottish Tories, Theresa May said “The EU comes third after the rest of the UK, and the rest of the world as a market for Scottish goods”. This line was repeated by Ruth Davidson in a TV interview at the weekend.

Given that they haven't even started to think about it yet, the 164 countries that make up the “rest of the world” (USA, North Korea, Lesotho, Bhutan, etc) are clearly a long way from establishing a single economic area.

It may be politically appealing for the Conservatives to divide the world neatly into three markets – the UK, the EU and all the others – to create the impression that the EU is Scotland’s least important market, but it is so strikingly absurd that it is was astonishing to hear it coming from the mouth of a British Prime Minister.

When presented with this kind of nonsense in a draft speech, an economically literate politician should know strike it out immediately, and to reflect on possibility that she might need a new speechwriter.

Simon Horner Fife

Nationality has never been an issue for my family – until now

I applaud the Independent’s decision to publish letters from EU citizens describing their Brexit-related fears (“I will not be used as a bargaining chip in the Brexit negotiations”, 2 March 2017). Recent political events and decisions have inflicted wounds that will be difficult to heal and even harder to forget. Here is a short summary of my own journey:

I arrived in this country on a grey October morning, my car packed full of the things that I hoped would make my start in my new chosen country feel less daunting. I was full of hope and eager to start my studies in environmental biology at Swansea University. That morning, I had no plans that went beyond finding my student accommodation and meeting some of my fellow students. I had no plans to stay on after my studies, just as I had no plans to leave, either. I was young and pretended to be fearless. Soon, and like so many before me, I fell in love with the county, the scenery and the people. Dylan Thomas' "ugly lovely town" became my world as well.

Both of my sons are Welsh and have Welsh middle names. I consider myself European, so much so that I never even taught my children German. In my eyes, it would have only served to highlight differences between them and their playmates. I never even registered them as German citizens.

Why would I? In the past, when people emigrated to a different country, they often knew they were unlikely to return, forcing them to embrace their new home. That is how I felt when I embraced this country. As far as I was concerned, I had emigrated from my country of birth not to live with one foot in the past, but to plant both of my feet firmly in my country of choice.

The children were still very young, and I was in the first year of my PhD, when I divorced their father. In spite of all the difficulties that ensued, from the ex-husband trying every ruse in the book to get round paying child maintenance to the Child Support Agency failing me at every step of the process, I never once considered leaving this country. My life and that of my children was here and, in spite of the troubles this decision caused me over the years, I felt I had no right to remove the children from their father or their extended family.

I have always put my children first, which also means I put my career second, working to live rather than living to work. The fact that my children are such high achievers (one now at Cambridge, the other one not far behind) and confident young men tells me that was the right decision for us. Now, with the government's decision to treat EU citizens as pawns in a sick game of one-upmanship that nobody else in the EU has any intention of playing, I have to worry whether this will be fashioned into the administrative noose that will bring my life as I know it to an abrupt stop: those four years I spent as a stay-at-home mum when the children were born and may not have earned enough; those years as a PhD student, which I entered in order to become the main breadwinner and during which I did not have “comprehensive private health insurance” because nobody ever pointed out this might be necessary; the decision to change careers, to go freelance so that I might have the flexibility to be there for my children during their formative years, which resulted in a drop in my income. Will the only country that is home to me reject me and separate me from my children?

Instead of rejecting recent political decisions for their sheer nefariousness, some people have helpfully suggested that I should probably have applied for British citizenship at some point during my 26 years in this country, as if that had changed anything for my children or myself. I never had a problem with the fact that I was born in a different country to my children, and still do not. It is part of my personal history, the path which brought me here and made me the person I am. Similarly, my children still only have British nationality and British passports. After all, this is our home and we belong together. Nationality was never an issue for us. Until now.

Karen Schafheutle Address supplied

The Labour Party need to unite

Division have arisen again in the Labour Party after the by-election defeat in Copeland. It was a devastating result for the Labour Party.

This turned the focus on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and the cry rose again for his resignation.

In fact the issue in Copeland was more to do with Brexit than anything else. The key fault line in Labour Party is the in-fighting within its own ranks.

What both sides say is exaggerated or biased and does not solve the problem rather it acerbates it.

Now is the time for the Labour Party to roll up its sleeves, close ranks and move forward. It should concentrate on working on policies on NHS, education, environment, economy, housing, energy, transport, trade unions, foreign affairs and defence rather than indulging in petty politics which has been going on for quite a while. This is counter-productive and regressive step. It is time to rebuild and re-connect with the voters and not finding scapegoats.

Baldev Sharma Harrow

A snap general election would be terrible for the Tories

Anthony Rodriguez (Letters) suggests Theresa May should call a snap election “to kill several pesky birds with one stone” and “put the boot into Miller, Juncker, Sturgeon, the Lords, Labour et al”.

In fact I suspect May has come to the conclusion that she’s better off with a small majority and a fractured opposition than scores more looney Brexiteers on her back benches.

Reverend John Cameron St Andrews

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