For those who hold dual citizenship, going back to visit family and loved ones in Iran is a risky business. Many individuals have been held and convicted of acts of treason, spying and working for various agencies in the West as part of a cultural warfare with Iran. The country itself does not recognize dual citizenship, regarding those who claim it as Iranian citizens only, subject to all the laws of Iran.
One woman, who was arrested along with her toddler as she attempted to leave the country, has been sentenced to five years in prison. They had come to spend the Persian New Year holiday with Nazanin Zagheri Ratcliffe’s family. On April 6, 2016, they were arrested at the airport. Ratcliffe was denied legal representation during her trial and her request for a retrial was denied. Her daughter is currently living with Ratcliffe’s parents in Iran, because her passport was confiscated and her father cannot remove her from Iran, despite her British citizenship.
Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard, has continued to try to draw international support, while remaining in Britain. Ratcliffe worked for Thomson Reuters Foundation, which delivers charitable projects around the world and does not work in Iran.
“It is hard to understand how a young mother and her small child on holiday could be considered an issue of national security,” said Richard Ratcliffe during an interview in 2016. There were concerns that she was being held as a potential bargaining chip with Britain, although nothing is known about what Iran might want in trade. Earlier in 2016, Iranian authorities released a group of previously detained Iranian-Americans as part of a prisoner swap with the U.S. Ratcliffe had been to Iran four times in the two years prior to her arrest without any problems.
She was convicted of fomenting a “soft overthrow” of the Islamic Republic by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and also of being a ringleader of a network of “hostile institutions” associated with foreign intelligence agencies. Her husband and family have denied these allegations. Early in her imprisonment, Ratcliffe told family that she was forced to sign a confession under duress, but they were not told the contents of the confession.
Other duel citizens have suffered similar fates, as they are denied access to the consulates of their other nationality and also are denied access to legal counsel during their confinement and trials. Many countries are warning dual citizens of the risks of traveling to Iran based on several cases in 2016.