I have just fired off a letter to my MP, Rachael Maskell, York Central, in abject frustration regarding the sorry plight of the political prisoner Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, in order to ask her to raise questions in the House of Commons regarding what the government is doing to secure the release of this young mother. I am becoming increasingly worried and concerned by the government’s lack of action in her case.
You could argue that our inept government has its hands tied with the Brexit mess that it has gotten itself into. Unfortunately, this is not good enough. If Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, could spend part of the Christmas recess cultivating trade deals with Singapore and Asia, at the same time as positioning himself as the next Conservative leader, he could have been visibly doing something to secure Nazanin’s release.
Hunt intervened in the case of Matthew Hedges, who was unfairly imprisoned in at a Dubai airport and the matter was resolved relatively quickly. The least Hunt could do would be to become personally involved in Nazanin’s case, particularly as his Conservative predecessor, Boris Johnson, made such a hash of his representation of her, only serving to exacerbate her perilous position.
During my research into her situation, it came to light that the British government has reneged on an arms deal with Iran, taking £450m in payment from the country, without providing the arms in return. Throughout the Brexit process the government has stated that it will pay its debts to the EU before leaving. Why then is it happy to become a debtor to the Iranian government? Is it because it does not wish to publicise a politically incorrect business deal?
It is clear that the British government has full responsibility for Nazanin’s predicament, but it allows her to languish in jail, without appearing to do anything. Meanwhile, her daughter is growing up motherless, her husband is working tirelessly to secure her release and Nazanin is considering going on hunger strike. While a powerful action and statement to protest her innocence, such a strike could have long-term health consequences. Coupled with the long-term mental health consequences that she will suffer due to the miscarriage of justice that she is experiencing, it is clear that the Iranian government’s treatment of her and her family is, and always has been, beyond cruelty. The British government’s inaction in her case is now making them complicit in indefensible cruelty.
The black hole of Brexit
I derived more than a little wry amusement from Andrew Griffin’s report that scientists might have stumbled upon the witnessing of the birth, some 200 million light years away, of a black hole for the first time – all the more so, when I went on to read that it had been nicknamed “The Cow”; for surely the black hole into which the Brexit-related parliamentary farrago of the past few days has propelled us must be a serious contender to eclipse this event. Besides, it’s not even as if you need a telescope to view it.
I feel Andy Murray’s pain
As someone who also had to retire prematurely because of pain, I can really understand Andy Murray’s emotions as he too contemplates retirement. My pain is from neuropathy in my feet, and like Andy, I just worked through the pain until one day I realised I just couldn’t do it anymore. But that sudden switch, from working one day to retirement the next, with no planning or thought, is so hard. It’s still hard to take in what I had to do, even though it was five years ago for me.
So to Andy Murray, I want to say I am so sorry you have to retire so suddenly and that I can really understand what you must be going through. I wish I could make it better for you.
Imagine if we had had Chris Grayling instead of Winston Churchill
Chris Grayling‘s comments about the probable rise of nationalism and the end of moderate politics in the UK in the event of a no-Brexit are sadly not only yet another reflection of his inadequacies, but are also very ill-considered.
Is he really suggesting that a course of action should not be followed because of the potential confrontation it might cause? If so, that smacks of a weakness at the heart of the state that we should all fear far more than far-right extremism. Faced with fascism, as Mr Grayling might remember from the Second World War, you fight it, not express fear and suggest appeasement. The Tories didn’t seem to have any hesitation in crushing the “enemy within” during the miners’ strike, as I recall. What is it about the far right that Chris Grayling thinks makes them untouchable?
Transport secretary is going in the wrong direction
The transport secretary is wrong to suggest that blocking Brexit could trigger a surge of far-right extremism. To the contrary, Brexit has brought out the worst in the English – it has helped xenophobic sentiments to rise to the fore, that could one day bring the worst emotions, passions into play and ignite a centrifugal moment that could be translated into other countries exiting the European Union or lead to the disintegration of the UK itself. It is inarguable that Brexit would adversely affect myriad disciplines from geography to arts, linguistics, peace-building and promotion, democratisation, conflict prevention and resolution, security, sociology, anthropology, feminism, state building, architecture and cultural studies. Let us pray that Brexit will be a far-fetched reality.
Dr Munjed Farid al Qutob
Brexit means... drop it
Ironically, the overarching message to come out of Brexit so far, has not been “Brexit Means Brexit”. Try “Brexit Means Fix It”, “Brexit Means Bodge It” or “Brexit Means Drop It”. When we say a “solution”, we more usually mean solving the problem, rather than watering down democracy so that it washes away with a flush.
On the other hand, in this case, that would show both wisdom and prudence.
Speaking of good flushes, revoking Article 50 altogether would save a second referendum. Some would say it’s not democratic, but it seems that nobody cares about that anyway. (Those who have moaned about a second vote will have instant gratification.)
Besides, it’s only what should have happened already, after the validity of the 2016 vote was quite properly called into question.