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Backbench Business — Iran (UK Foreign Policy)

Part of Business of the House – in the House of Commons at 1:17 pm on 6th November 2014.

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Photo of Diane Abbott Diane Abbott Labour, Hackney North and Stoke Newington 1:17 pm, 6th November 2014

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate on Iran. If we look at the middle east today—which is at risk of conflagration from end to end, whether it be in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel-Palestine or even Afghanistan—we will see that Iran is a key player. If we are to resolve some of the issues, Her Majesty’s Government and this House must take a nuanced and sophisticated approach to our relationship with Iran. It is not helpful to talk about Iran, or even its regime, as a monolith. As most of us should know, there are separate and distinct factions within the regime that are jostling for supremacy at any given time.

I do not wish to take away from the seriousness of the human rights issues in Iran. My hon. Friend Mr Slaughter has mentioned his constituent, Ghoncheh Ghavami, a British resident who is subject to imprisonment, apparently for a year, for going to watch a men’s volleyball match. I think that any British person would be shocked at any regime that would treat somebody in that fashion. As we have heard, she is on hunger strike for the second time in protest against her illegal detention, and her lawyer has seen court documents stating that she has been sentenced to a year in prison. The prosecutors, however, have not confirmed her sentence, so she is in limbo. That is an appalling way to treat a young woman. Although I think it is correct that this particular case should not form part of the issues relating to international relationships and so on, she is a British resident who is being treated extremely cruelly and unfairly. This is an humanitarian issue and I want Her Majesty’s Government to do more to help this British resident, who is subject to a cruel and unusual punishment for doing no more than going to watch a sporting match, which British women do every day of the week.