The daughter of Anoosheh Ashoori, a British-Iranian businessman who returned to the UK this week after year’s of captivity in Iran, said they struggled to draw the media’s attention to her father’s plight because they did not see the family as “very relatable”.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Elika Ashoori said the family had experienced an “outpouring of love” since her father’s return but the last five years of his captivity had been very different and they had to fight for help.
She said: “It has been a very big struggle trying to get my dad’s name out there, we were slightly more successful in the last year of our campaign because of the efforts of Amnesty and other organisations that finally joined us.
“But because of his name, age, his looks, us being grown up children, and us not being very relatable so we couldn’t really engage on a major scale with the media and public no matter how hard we tried.
“But regardless of that we have succeeded because he was included in the deal, so I think despite all that hardship we managed to strike a chord and keep his name out there and keep the momentum going for him to be included in the deal.”
Ashoori, 67, and fellow British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 43, were released from the control of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps on Wednesday at Tehran international airport before being flown to Oman and then on to RAF Brize Norton.
Iranian authorities arrested Ashoori in August 2017, when he was visiting his mother.
In August 2019, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison – 10 years for allegedly “spying for Israel’s Mossad” and two years for “acquiring illegitimate wealth”. Ashoori denied both charges.
The release was tied to the payment of a decades-old debt of nearly £400m, related to a failed arms deal in the 70s.
Elika said the family would always question whether he could have been brought home sooner.
She said: “Of course, there’s always that question which is something we will obviously be continuing to campaign for once we’ve regrouped because he wasn’t the only one and Nazanin wasn’t the only one taken through hostage diplomacy.
“The debt being paid has managed to bring my dad and Nazanin home but there are also others, there are dual nationals still being detained. Until we get to the root cause of this problem we can’t prevent cases to happen in the future.
“It’s OK to point fingers and say the blame is with this government or that government – at the end of the day we are the collateral damage. By paying one debt we’re not solving the issue. We have to get to the root cause of the problem and see why is it the world is allowing this barbaric practice to continue.”
Elika said overall her father seemed fine and was “in good spirits” and while he had lost weight, he was “in general, healthy”.
She said he was not “angry with the UK”, adding he was furious with Iranian officials and with the Iranian government for the way he had been treated.