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UK: daughter of British man jailed in Iran calls on Government to ‘save my dad’

One of Elika Ashoori's most treasured photographs: with her father Anoosheh after she had baked him a birthday cake © Private

Elika Ashoori makes emotional appeal ahead of Father’s Day

Retired engineer Anoosheh Ashoori, 67, detained in Iran for almost four years

‘The Iranian authorities are all too adept at using forced family separations to punish those who dare defy them’ - comedian Shaparak Khorsandi

*Powerful 11-minute film released by family

The daughter of a UK national jailed in Iran has issued an emotional “save my dad” appeal to the UK government ahead of Father’s Day this Sunday.

Elika Ashoori, 34, made the comments as part of her family’s campaign to secure the release of her 67-year-old father - retired engineer Anoosheh Ashoori, a UK-Iranian dual-national who has been arbitrarily detained in Iran for almost four years. 

Mr Ashoori’s adult children - Elika and Aryan - and his wife Sherry Izadi, who lives in south London, are calling on the UK government to extend “diplomatic protection” to Ashoori, which means his case would become the subject of an official dispute between the UK and Iran. 

Amnesty is supporting the family’s efforts, with more than 30,000 people backing Amnesty’s “Free Anoosheh” campaign. High-profile figures like Olivia Colman, Nazanin Boniadi and Shaparak Khorsandi have also drawn attention to the case as part of wider campaigning for other UK nationals held in Iran, including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

With the Ashoori family also releasing a powerful 11-minute film to mark Father’s Day, Elika Ashoori explained the painful nature of the day and similar family occasions:

“Each year that goes by, a little bit of hope dies along with it. A year of life that never comes back, a year our family could have been together but missed forever.

“I try not to even dwell on the big days anymore. The less I focus on Father’s Day, birthdays or Christmas, the less painful it is to go through them.

“I see signs, newsletters and shop adverts everywhere saying, ‘Treat your dad this Father’s Day’, or ‘Have you told your dad you love him this Father’s Day?’, and there is no way to cope with these constant reminders other than to try really, really hard to ignore them.

“I’ve almost run out of things to say to the Government - it feels like ministers and officials are just not listening. My one plea though is that they grant my father diplomatic protection. It’s perhaps the one way they can save my dad.”

In the family film, made by documentary film-makers Paris Palmer and Josh Williams, Elika talks about how she feels “constantly angry and powerless” with her father trapped in Evin Prison in Tehran.

Earlier this year, Sky News reported how in a phone recording recently smuggled out of jail, Ashoori had expressed his anguish at the extended separation from his family, with his wife saying she could “hear tears in his voice” and “sense the desperation in him”.

Lydia Parker, Individuals at Risk Campaigner at Amnesty International UK, said:

“The Government is failing Anoosheh and failing his family. 

“It’s hard to see what the UK’s strategy to secure the freedom of Anoosheh and other UK nationals actually consists of, but by any measure it’s currently a failed strategy.

“It’s a terrible indictment of UK diplomacy that Anoosheh is still languishing in a jail cell in Tehran.

“No more talk - we need action from Dominic Raab and other ministers over Anoosheh. We need to know his case is being escalated. And we need diplomatic protection to be granted, with genuine and unrelenting efforts made to free Anoosheh and get him home.”

The comedian Shaparak Khorsandi, who has been campaigning for Ashoori’s release, said: 

“This Father’s Day, as well as thinking of ways to spoil my own dad I’m also sparing a thought for the Ashoori family, with Elika and Aryan once again cruelly separated from their father.

“As I know from my own experience, the Iranian authorities are all too adept at using forced family separations to punish those who dare defy them. 

“The Ashoori family are set to have yet another bleak Father’s Day with Anoosheh still languishing in jail. It’s long overdue that the UK government granted Anoosheh diplomatic protection and got serious about securing his release and much-needed return home.” 

Grossly unfair trial

Anoosheh Ashoori was arrested by Iranian Military Intelligence officials in August 2017 while visiting his elderly mother. He was subjected to a grossly unfair trial - with torture-tainted “confessions” used to convict him of “cooperating with a hostile state” - and jailed for ten years, with two years to run concurrently. The 67-year-old is suffering from failing health and is at risk of contracting coronavirus in crowded and unsanitary jail conditions. Amnesty is calling on the UK government to urgently press the Iranian authorities to ensure that he is permanently released from jail and allowed to leave the country to rejoin his family in the UK. 

Failure of diplomacy

There are longstanding concerns that the UK government has failed to prioritise Anoosheh Ashoori’s case or that of other UK nationals held in Iran. For example, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, has labelled the UK’s inability to secure his wife’s freedom a “failure of diplomacy”. Amnesty fears the treatment of Ashoori, Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other Iranian dual-nationals from the UK and elsewhere is part of a wider pattern by the Iranian authorities to exert global diplomatic pressure. Ahead of last weekend’s G7 summit, Amnesty called on world leaders to urgently move ahead with an intergovernmental “action plan” on the issue initiated by the Canadian government. 

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