Dual-nationals in the hands of Pawns or men of action?
Phillip Hamond, the British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian President, Tehran 2015, the reopening of the British Embassy.
It is nearly four decades that the Iranian dual-nationals have been pawns in the hands of the Iranian Islamic and tyrannical regime.
The Iranian diaspora has shown a remarkable quality of assimilation in their adopted homes in the West. Today, millions are dual-nationals, scattered all over the world and thrive in their chosen profession.
Among the Iranians settled overseas many have kept in touch with their families in Iran, and visit them occasionally, on their Iranian passport. An Iranian citizen can visit the country on an Iranian passport only. Full stop.
They are Iranians and must abide by the local laws. Therefore, the despots in Iran can do what they want with them: leave them in peace, arrest them without charge, or charge them on national security grounds or as enemies of Islam, as they have done far too often with the general population.
If you want to visit Iran, take your precautions. In Iran, to be arrested it does not matter if you are innocent or guilty: arrest first then charge on falsehood.
The dual-nationals visiting Iran naively feel safe and are overconfident in their possession of their other nationality. Most dual-nationals are totally disconnected from Iranian social life: the knowledge is limited to the embellished tales they hear from their families and memories from the past. During their stay, the families do their best in welcoming their family members “living abroad/kharedj”, especially if their foreign spouse is also visiting: days are filled with parties, sightseeing, laughter and good food. The country’s unpleasant sides are hidden: there is no talk of the repression, executions, economical hardship, and general corruption.
In forty years, how many times I have heard from the dual-nationals: “I go to recharge my batteries in the country.” Ask them about the latest book published in Iran, the number of newspapers articles read during their stay and you draw a blank. Iranian domestic matters do not concern them and discussing them is best avoided, and thus they believe staying clean in the eyes of the repressive agents of the republic. Once back to their homes in the West, busy with their professional lives, they will keep updated with papers and reports in the Western media, if they have time.
Iran is the Valayat-e Faqih Property
Iran is not the land of milk and honey. Iran is now the personal property of the ayatollahs. It is not enough to claim that Iran is a great country with wonderful people, but a repressive regime. Where does the regime start? Where does the greatness end? What do the people do to have their say?
In regard to the dual-nationals, and certainly for those still with strong family bonds in Iran, the best description of them would be naivety combined with a blessed ignorance, given their nostalgic feelings of filial love, tenderness and generosity.
One day, out of the blue skies, the thunder will come: the dual-national is arrested in Iran and taken into an unknown location under no charge for many weeks or months. Then the reality of the country, a repressive theocracy and Islamic tyranny hits hard among the families, and those who care: Iran is not a safe place for Iranians.
One should never forget that the Iranian citizen is under the ayatollahs’ thumb, every minute of the day, and whatever one does can be misinterpreted. Full stop.
Dual-Nationals and Powerless Embassies
In the days following a dual-national arrest, families keep quiet, trying to make arrangements, Iranian style. Shortly, the concerned embassy of the dual-national is informed. And the bitter reality comes out: the consular services and protection from the second country are denied to the dual-national. After all, they are Iranian.
This point is written and repeated clearly in the “Travel advice” issues by the ministries of foreign affairs. But to my knowledge, a dual-national hardly ever considers it. They have done nothing wrong, so why worry?
The European countries’ consular services for their own citizens, excluding the Iranian dual-national, are already hampered by the goodwill of the Iranian authorities. In the case of an arrest, no matter how innocent one is, the Iranian authorities by International conventions are required to inform the representation of the citizen. An obligation hardly ever fulfilled. Often, the embassy becomes aware of the case when a friend presents the case before them.
Usually the government concerned by the dual-national’s case will try to keep things quiet in the hope that things could be settled and the “mistake” is cleared without fuss.
There is no mistake with the Iranian authorities.
Some cases of arrests, the tip of the iceberg, have hit the Western media. Since 1979, hundreds have been reported in the papers. Those before the internet era are buried in newspaper archives. With the internet things are different and the information is available.
The Iranian government arrests Iranians dual-citizens for political reasons. Often to apply pressure and settle political scores. The case is closed by paying a ransom. Neither the Iranian government nor the Western government will acknowledge receiving and paying it.
Once the dual-national returns home, is there a follow-up? Is there a recount of what happened? In very few cases there are, rarely read by the general public. The majority of “ex-hostages” prefer to keep the whole story quiet and try to forget about it.
In these columns, we cannot repeat it enough: Iran is no safe country for Iranians themselves, living in the country, especially if they speak their mind, or for dual-nationals visiting their parents.
Since the election of Hassan Rouhani as president, the number of arrested dual-nationals has soared.
Since the JCPOA (nuclear deal) with Iran was signed, Iranian authorities and the propaganda machinery have filled European newspapers about the charms of Iranian tourism, repeating how lovely the country is.
In Iran things change, as long as they stay the very same. Since 1979, there has been a line drawn by the former Supreme Guide, R. Khomeini, that has been pursued and refined by high circles of the theocracy. Despite a few cosmetics and tactical changes as to how it has been pursued, the basics and dogma have not altered. The men in the public eye come from a trusted circle close to the Vali-e Faqih.
For the last four decades, the Iranians abroad have disputed and fought each other, and have never been tempted to join forces. Today, the possibility of a regime change in Iran is not envisaged.
The myriad of tiny groups (some with less than a dozen members) have no followers, neither abroad nor in the country. In the run-up to the 2009 presidential elections (2nd mandate for Ahmadinejad), the Western media were rather desperate to find opposing personalities to interview. In the 2013 elections (H. Rouhani), the possibilities were even fewer, and therefore the focus was to elect a “president for change”.
WHAT A CHANGE!
In this past decade, the diaspora has not been dependable to provide reliable information about Iran. Thanks to the internet, the number of sources of information specifically about Iran is growing; however the audience remains limited overseas and the impact at home is nought.
Myths, Omertà and “Confession”
For many years, the diaspora has succeeded in producing a romanticised view of life in Iran based on hearsay and embellished stories told by their elders. A view that is not to be challenged, at least not when an Iranian is present.
The Iranians in the country will go on being arrested till are destroyed. There is no hope for them. The Iranian dual-nationals will go on to be arrested incommunicado, with some hope of going home to their families, unharmed, thanks to international pressure and once they have signed a forced “confession”.
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, there are no baddies, hard-liners, goodies, moderates. They are birds of the same feather.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her baby daughter are the latest in a long list of ayatollahs’ hostages: Zahra, Ghoncheh, Jason, Sarah, Kamal, Kourosh, Amir, Ramin, Nassim, Tahereh, … The list is long and is going to be longer in the future.
All went to Iran a few times, all went enthusiastic about the greatness of Iran. Naively they felt safe and happy, till they got arrested.
Then the omertà was broken, petitions were signed by an overwhelming majority of Western citizens and far too few Iranian ones. Where are OUR voices?
No citizen deserves this. These are not cases based on the finer points of Iranian laws and the judiciary system. These are downright human right abuses by a herd of religious beasts.
This time, Nazanin Ratcliffe and Gabriella are the hostages: a mother and a baby, most sacred in any human civilisation.
These are cases of barbaric hostage taking, by a brazen regime that gets bolder every day. There is no force to oppose it.
Ironically, the Iranians that suffer most from it are the most supportive of the despotic theocracy by their silence, by choosing to ignore the facts and by being apathetic.
The power to change things lies in our hands, Iranians, if we want it.
For now, inaction and apathy are our shame.