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British Citizens Imprisoned Overseas and Coronavirus

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:02 pm on 2nd March 2020.

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Photo of Emily Thornberry Emily Thornberry Shadow Foreign Secretary 5:02 pm, 2nd March 2020

Thank you for granting this urgent question, Madam Deputy Speaker, and I thank my hon. Friend Tulip Siddiq for applying for it.

In the short time that I have, I want to make a heartfelt plea to the Government of Iran. We all have long memories in this House, and if I was to mention certain Iranian place names, such as Manjil, Rudbar or Bam, they would conjure up images of people diligently digging through rubble, searching for surviving earthquake victims. Among them were British firefighters, doctors and aid workers, supported by donations from the British people. They were all desperate to do their bit and were moved by nothing but mercy and love for their Iranian brothers and sisters. They never stopped to think about politics, sanctions or diplomacy; they just saw a humanitarian need and acted—acted on the common bonds of kindness and compassion that unite our two peoples.

When we address Tehran today, we can only ask it to do the same. For once, do not see Nazanin as a political football. Do not see Nazanin as a bargaining chip. Instead, see Nazanin the way the rest of the world does, particularly facing this new and terrifying threat to her health. See Nazanin as the loving mother desperate to get back to Gabriella. See Nazanin as the devoted wife in need of Richard’s care. See Nazanin as we saw those innocent people lying helpless in the rubble of a humanitarian crisis. You today have it in your gift to save her. Nazanin does not deserve this fresh suffering. She deserves only to come home today.

I hope that the Minister will join me in that plea and make a solemn commitment that if Tehran acts with compassion and generosity today, we will not forget our obligations to act with fairness and justice in resolving the other issues of dispute between our two countries.