Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has urged the UK government “not to turn a blind eye” to the fraught situation in her native Iran, where authorities are cracking down hard on protesters.
Widespread demonstrations against the regime are continuing across Iran after the death of Mahsa Amini, 22, in custody last month. Men and women have taken to the streets to express their outrage at her death after she was detained by the country’s morality police for not wearing a hijab in accordance with government standards.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was imprisoned in Iran for six years before her release earlier this year, said the recent events have brought back memories of her time behind bars at the hands of the Iranian regime.
The mother-of-one, a dual British-Iranian national, said she wants to see the Conservative government in London take a bolder stance against Tehran over human rights abuses.
“I want them to observe what is happening not to turn a blind eye,” she told Sky News.
“I want them to protect us.
“We cannot be indifferent about what is happening in Iran and if we talk about protecting rights of our citizens, we have to do something about it and I think we have to hold Iran accountable.
“The world has to make it very, very expensive for Iran to violate human rights so easily. It should be costly,” she said, adding that this should include sanctions.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe also said the events in Iran have brought back memories from her experience in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison and have exacerbated her nightmares.
“It does bring memories of when I was arrested but also how helpless you are when you are in custody,” she said.
In the wake of Ms Amini’s death, women in Iran burned their hijabs in public in a bold act of resistance against the hardline regime’s strict rules.
Across the world women cut their hair in protest against Iran’s law, which requires women and girls over the age of nine to wear a headscarf in public.
Oscar-winning actresses Marion Cotillard and Juliette Binoche were among those to put scissors to their locks as part of the movement of solidarity with the female protesters in Iran.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe also cut her hair, and described it as a “symbol of women getting more power about their body” that resonates throughout the world.
A spokesperson for the UK government said the Truss administration “has been very clear in condemning the violence levelled against peaceful protestors over the past three weeks”.
“The Foreign Office also summoned Iran’s most senior diplomat in the UK this week to call on the Iranian authorities to exercise restraint and respect the right to peaceful assembly,” they added.
“We have a tough set of sanctions in place against Iran and are looking at what further action we can take in the short term in response to human rights violations by the Iranian authorities.”