Five steps to tackle state hostage-taking

Rachel Briggs on how Britain can act to end the plight of Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe

The World Today
Published 3 December 2021 2 minute READ

For three weeks, Richard Ratcliffe starved himself and slept on a cold pavement outside the Foreign Office in London to bring attention to the plight of his British wife, Nazanin, who has been held hostage by Iran for almost six years.

Her crime? Being in the wrong place with the wrong passport.

That an ordinary husband and father felt compelled to take these extreme measures underlines just how desperate the situation of state hostage-taking has become.

A report by The Washington Post documented its dramatic rise. It is no longer just Iran. Russia, China, North Korea and Venezuela now consider state hostage-taking an accepted diplomatic tool. It has become a low-risk form of asymmetric warfare for countries wishing to poke the bear without provoking a full-on retaliatory strike. Ordinary citizens are nothing more than expendable pawns in a three-dimensional game of geopolitical chess.

Subscribe to read all issues

Articles from the current issue are free to read by all, the archive is exclusive to magazine subscribers and our members. Subscribe or become a member to view articles from the archive.