Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori's release is cause for celebration and a rethink about how democracies deal with dictators – Scotsman comment

The release of British-Iranians Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori – held hostage by Iran for years on trumped up charges of attempting to overthrow the government and spying, respectively – is a cause for much celebration.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband Richard Ratcliffe and daughter Gabriella pictured after news of her release (Picture: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband Richard Ratcliffe and daughter Gabriella pictured after news of her release (Picture: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

In Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case, she, her husband Richard and their daughter Gabriella have been apart as a family since she was arrested in Iran in 2016 after travelling there to do something any new mother would want to do: show her baby to the child’s grandparents. In a message on social media, Ashoori’s daughter, Elika Ashoori, said that their family was looking forward to rebuilding its foundations “with our cornerstone back in place”.

It appears that the UK has done a deal to repay nearly £400 million owed to Iran since the 1970s, and Iran’s ransom demands may also have included diplomatic concessions.

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Given the tyrannical regime in Tehran has acted with such cruelty towards innocent people, demonstrating yet again that it is a criminal state, anyone thinking about going to Iran has to realise that they could potentially face a similar fate.

Therefore, by acting in this way, Iran’s government has turned itself into even more of a pariah state.

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's ordeal nears an end after six long years

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson has been making overtures to another murderous regime, Saudi Arabia’s dictatorial rulers, in an attempt to persuade them to increase supplies of fossil fuels to replace those from Vladimir Putin’s Russia as his war in Ukraine continues.

Last month, before that conflict began, the UK was seeking to forge new trade links with China, despite real fears of an invasion of Taiwan and the crackdown on peaceful protest in Hong Kong.

For decades, liberal democracies have treated dictators as people to do business with, to make money with. This was often accompanied by the hope that such ties would gradually lead to bonds of friendship, greater freedom and openness.

But what it has done is build up their economic and military power – in China and Russia’s case to a frightening degree.

It’s now time for the free world to think about a different approach, an overarching ideology that is reflected in everything it does. Countries that abuse fundamental human rights should find democratic nations turn away from them and be forced to watch enviously as those that move towards freedom are wholeheartedly embraced.

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