Tulip Siddiq has campaigned nobly for the return of her constituent, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. The Labour MP is again doing her bit to try and persuade the Iranian government to free the British-Iranian mum, who has been locked up on trumped-up charges in Iran.
‘After over four years in Evin Prison, Nazanin has been under house arrest in Iran and is unable to leave the country,’ write Siddiq and the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, in the Evening Standard today. ‘Though responsibility for her predicament lies with Iran, there is more that the UK Government could be doing to help her,’ she writes.
She’s got a point: Boris Johnson has made the situation worse, not better, for Nazanin, by clumsily intervening to suggest that she was training journalists. Yet while Siddiq’s campaigning on behalf of Nazanin is welcome, her criticism of foreign governments for unfairly locking up innocent people seems curiously selective.
In Bangladesh – under the rule of Siddiq’s aunt, Sheikh Hasina – hundreds of people have gone missing. The country has an appalling record when it comes to defending human rights: families who have tried to report their loved ones as missing have been told by police not to bother.
‘Do not search for him or we will slaughter you all,’ an officer told the family of an activist who went missing in 2016, the same year Nazanin was detained in Tehran. Some of those taken away later died or appeared in court. Dozens remain missing, according to Human Rights Watch. Witnesses speak of white vans turning up in the dead of night to take away those who have fallen foul of the Bangladeshi regime.
Is this anything to do with Tulip? The Labour MP insists it isn’t. She says she has little clout when it comes to intervening in Bangaldeshi politics.
‘You don’t get to be where she is by listening to your niece on national security issues. There are two words she’d say to me: ‘Fuck off’. People need to realise the limitations that I have, how far removed I am from it,’ she has said.
But is the alleged extra-judicial arrest of those who oppose Hasina’s government really a ‘national security issue’? And is it plausible to claim that Siddiq’s aunt – who was in London to watch her maiden speech in Parliament in 2015 – would respond with a four-letter word to the Labour MP speaking up on behalf of desperate families?
Tulip Siddiq has shown a willingness to criticise foreign politicians, not least Donald Trump ahead of his visit to Britain in 2018. ‘Donald Trump’s presidency has been marked by a rise in the politics of racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism, misogyny, homophobia, war mongering, climate change denial and attacks on human and workers’ rights,’ a letter published in the Guardian, which she signed, read.
Will Siddiq find her voice when it comes to speaking up on behalf of relatives of Bangladeshis who have gone missing? Or will she continue to suggest it’s none of her business?
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