Rustam Aliev 122

UPDATE Nadira has decided, with great sadness, not to travel to Uzbekistan, having received information that it is not safe to do so. Not being able to attend your own parent’s funeral is heartrending. She has however been to the mosque and discussed charitable work she might undertake in her father’s name.

I also received a reply from the FCO to my request for assistance, which is unhelpful and raises some interesting questions. Nadira’s only “crime” has been to leave Uzbekistan without permission. The Uzbek law in this regard is a hangover from the old Soviet Union exit visa regime, and it is something which the UK historically regarded as in itself a breach of fundamental human rights. Those of my generation will recall the line “we never had to lock our people in”. The FCO appears fine with this now in Uzbekistan, and it is yet another startling reminder that Western government’s interest in human rights depends entirely on who is breaching them.

The second point is very topical. The FCO writes:

The FCO would provide consular assistance to you if required when in country. However, the Uzbeks’ interpretation of your wife’s nationality may limit the level of consular support that we would be able to provide to her.

Yet the FCO takes the precise opposite position in the case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. As I have explained before, it is very longstanding UK policy that the government does not assist dual nationals in their country of second nationality. As explicitly stated in the case of Nadira, they accept the definition of nationality of the country that the person is in. I have personally witnessed consular help being denied to individuals on grounds of dual nationality in scores of cases during my FCO career.

Yet Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a UK/Iranian dual national, with Iranian nationality in the eyes of the government of Iran, has received consular assistance at a higher level than any living person, including sole UK citizens. That is a literal statement, nobody else living has had their consular case “adopted” as a state to state issue by the British government.

Let me be plain. I strongly urge the government of Iran to release Zaghari-Ratcliffe instantly, on humanitarian grounds. I know that the British government is illegally withholding hundreds of millions of dollars in defiance of a binding international arbitration ruling on the tank contract, but it is wrong to balance a life against cash. Iran is hurting its image even with its good friends by continuing to hold her.

But none of that answers the question of why Zaghari-Ratcliffe has, from the very start of her detention, been treated in a way that breaks all policy on consular treatment for dual nationals. If we had any decent and genuinely free journalists in this country it would be a question that had been discussed and politicians pressed for an answer. There are literally thousands of part British dual nationals in foreign jails, not receiving any assistance. Why should Nadira not be treated the same as Zaghari-Ratcliffe in a precisely analogous situation? Why has policy been ignored for just one individual?

There is a case for giving consular assistance to all British citizens abroad, whether or not they hold another nationality. That would require a very large increase in the FCO budget, and possibly not be effective because there is no legal obligation on the host country to acknowledge the second nationality and provide consular access. British government involvement has not actually helped Zaghari-Ratcliffe and probably has made matters worse. But any policy should be implemented fairly, in the same way for everyone to whom it applies. This very plainly is not happening.


Nadira’s father, the Uzbek playwright and theatre director Rustam Aliev, suffered a massive stroke yesterday and passed away in the early hours of this morning, age 60. Nadira is very sad at not having had the chance to see him before he died, and while awake all last night she set down her thoughts in this piece, which I find extremely powerful.

I wish I could turn back time
Only for a few hours, just a few hours back
Could’ve called you this morning
Could’ve said more than ‘I love you’
Would’ve said ‘The greatest gift you ever gave
Was freedom and you believed in me,
It was the best thing a woman wear
– when I was yet a teenager.’
You see because of this – I’m here today
Grateful and strong – that’s what I’d say.

I could tell you that even I’m far away
My heart & mind always loved you,
A few ups and downs, don’t matter at all
We cling to you, soul to soul.
Please clock take me to a few more hours back
Let me ask if he is proud of me
Let me ask if he ever had his own dream
Let me ask what he was like as a child…

Please hours have mercy – I was busy
I didn’t expect, I didn’t know that this day,
Today was his last.
Please let me let him know I loved him deeply,
he was the best
He often said he failed us, he never gave us anything,
that he was wasted and lost
He used to think he was the worst.
Please, restart the morning again
Let me tell him this – he was the best
And he gave the best – he gave me freedom
In my culture not all fathers
give freedom to their daughters.
He made me tough, he taught me to be strong
and sometimes neglect so I could find my way
through the fail.
He knew me, believed in me, he was never careful with me
or treated me like a princess doll.
He grew me tough, made me a warrior and said:
‘Go fly, you have wings, don’t be afraid, find your way
be your own kind’

It was weird,
but because of him I’m a free spirit.
Because of him I’m strong and live ‘my way’ in life.
Please clock take me back
Regrets are painful, they can attack
I love you, you hear me, please hear the echo of my soul
Ruthless time at least wave my sound fast, reach to his soul,
whilst its warm, tell him all:

Dad if you’re in the blue sky wondering, floating
or re-visiting your past,
Please hear me, Dad – ‘Thank you, daddy. Forgive me.
Know I loved you always, will always do,
and you’re the best, thanks for being just like YOU!’

Nadira is rightly insistent on returning immediately to Tashkent for her father’s funeral, and of course I shall go with her. However as everyone who has read “Murder in Samarkand” will understand, this is very fraught and potentially dangerous. Neither of us have ever returned to Uzbekistan after leaving in 2004. The visa requirement for British visitors was abolished earlier this year. Nadira is a British citizen since 2009. I have both spoken to and written to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to request their assistance and protection, but heard nothing back substantive yet. I hope the government of Uzbekistan will allow Nadira to mourn her father in peace.

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122 thoughts on “Rustam Aliev

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  • David

    All the very best to you both for finding your way through this difficult time and I wish you safe travels and a safe return.

  • Lorenzo diCenzo

    My condolences to your family for your loss, Craig. Please have a safe trip.

    On a brighter note, Craig and “Murder in Samarkand” were name-checked in a question on tonight’s episode of University Challenge. Got one past the BBC.

  • MBC

    Craig, Nadira and you could have a service of remembrance for him here. You could grieve and honour him here without endangering yourselves. You could put a plaque up to him somewhere and place flowers on it. Her family could send her a T shirt or something he wore that she could smell and cling to. His spirit would hear you. The poor man is gone. The flesh is but dust. It’s an animal part of us that wants to cling to the flesh. But think about yours!

  • Maywood

    If Nadira and Craig have decided to go to Tashkent, I really don’t think it’s up to blog commenters to try and tell them whether to go or not. Not our business — with the best will in the world.

    With deepest condolences, and wishing you both well, Craig.

    • lysias

      Pointing out the dangers is not the same thing as telling them not to go. And to point them out is I think the responsibility of any friend.

    • Courtenay Barnett


      ” If Nadira and Craig have decided to go to Tashkent, I really don’t think it’s up to blog commenters to try and tell them whether to go or not. Not our business — with the best will in the world.”

      I doubt it is actually telling them what to do – rather genuine expressions of concern for their safety.

  • Cascadian

    My sincere condolences to Nadira, her family and you Craig for the pain you are now enduring. As someone has already said – we commenters cannot decide what you must do, but I’m sure we all wish you both well and that you will be kept safe from those who might wish you harm.

  • Rhys Jaggar

    In my culture not all fathers give freedom to their sons….

    A very moving sets of words, you have higher priorities right now than educating we readers, Mr Murray…

  • Tatyana

    Dear Mrs. Murray and Mr. Murray, my condolences for your loss.
    During your travel to Usbekistan, please let us know you’re safe.

  • Yr Hen Gof

    My condolences to you both at this very sad time.
    I think it’s rare for a child not to feel guilt at the death of a parent, it becomes another drawn thread in the tapestry of our lives.
    Return safely. Our wishes travel with you.

  • Dr Zoltan Jorovic

    My sincerest condolences to you both. Best wishes for a safe journey and swift return.

  • Sam

    Wait… according to the British gov’t, she’s an Uzbek when she’s in Uzbekistan, but British when she’s in Britain? And I thought the American gov’t was f—ked up.

  • Dungroanin

    It is a great relief to read your update. You are both doing what you know is best.

    Time to actually vote in a government that will deliver an ethical foreign policy.

    This time not railroaded by the neocon liblab rats.

    This election is already showing signs of serious manipulation – we need you (craig) to be exposing it. All the best.


    I was worrying about your situation and am relieved in a way that you will not be going back to Uzbekistan. It is just not safe to do so. Not being able to attend the funeral is deeply traumatic for everyone involved of course but given the uncertain situation probably something that must be borne.

  • Ronny

    A tangential question – is it not the case that “the Uzbeks” means the people of Uzbek ethnicity, and when referring to the authorities of Uzbekistan one should say “Uzbekistanis”?
    Likewise with other ‘stans, though I’ve never heard “Afghanistani”, while an odd political correctness prevents anything but “Pakistani” being used in the UK if not elsewhere.

    • Dom

      Yes the abbreviated version has no history of being used with abusive intent by racists, so what’s the problem?

      • Ronny

        It was a question rather than a problem as such. The point is one of accuracy.

        The question over Pakistan (admittedly different from the others as it’s a comparative neologism and not a name derived from an ethnicity – so really not the ideal candidate for racist misuse) manifests itself in interesting ways – for example D Miliband mispronouncing it with a short first ‘a’ and a long second ‘a’. Was that racist?

    • SA

      Why make a meal of it? These terms are in any case westernised names for non western ethnic groups or even artificially constructed countries. It is a kind of self righteous orientalism to agonise about this.

  • Sopo

    Everything points to Ratcliffe being a spy. Her husband practically has his own column at The Guardian.

    • M.J.

      How does her husband’s writing for the Guardian prove anything? If anything the case of Nazanin Z-R shows that Iranians holding dual citizenship should not go to Iran, as they may be unjustly imprisoned and used as bargaining chips. It shows that the Iranian government is unjust and deserves to fall, as that of Syria, North Korea and all dictatorships.

      • John Pillager

        UK and USA are unjust with Julian Assange….and deserve to fall too ?
        And the never ending list of ‘unjust’ governments crowding out this tiny planet ?
        (‘Friendly Fascism’ is a real thing BTW)

        • M.J.

          The governments of Western democracies can be removed at elections. Ayatollahs and Dear Leaders – forget it!

          • Laguerre

            That’s wrong. Ayatollah is not a governmental post. Iran has elections, which are strongly contested. Even Khamenei is elected by a council, called something like the Council of Authorities. Iran is absolutely not a dictatorship, but what is called a “limited democracy”, indeed a very similar level of democracy to that of Britain, which should also be denominated a limited democracy. But like all Brexiters you allow yourself to be xenophobic, convinced by all those Iranian exiles in the West, who supported and profited from a real dictatorial absolutist regime, that of the Shah. The problem of Iran is that it is too democratic, in a way not liked by the old elite who supported dictatorship, but were friends with the West.

          • Alex Westlake

            Khameini is the supreme leader and Rouhani is subordinate to him. And no one Khameini disapproves of would be allowed to contest the presidency in the first place

          • bevin

            Laguerre what you say about Iran is perfectly true. This nonsense, however, discredits you:
            “ all Brexiters you allow yourself to be xenophobic, convinced by all those Iranian exiles in the West..”
            To insist that opposition to the, thoroughly neo-liberal, EU is a sign of xenophobia is cheap and silly. The ability to mobilise logical fallacies in words is not a sign of education of but of contempt.

      • Jimmy

        My understanding was that Iranians cannot hold dual citizenship. So if you are born in the UK but have and Iranian father, apon entry to Iran you are considered Iranian but will not have the correct documents (ie an Iranian passport) and therefore have trouble leaving.

    • Vivian O'Blivion

      The term “spy” implies access to or seeking access to classified information. According the our buffoon in chief (Foreign Secretary at the time) Zaghari-Ratcliffe was “teaching citizen journalism”. Given that Iran is in an effective state of war with the West and the current US Secretary of State and the previous National Security Advisor have called for regime change in Tehran (in a private capacity at least), what Iran holds to be illegal in its domestic law is entirely up to them. Zaghari-Ratcliffe knew full well what she was doing and must accept the consequences.

    • bob

      entirely agree Sopo

      Ratcliffe has worked for BBC Media Action – a subversive ‘charity’ organisation that prides itself on finding agents in other countries who will happily assist in the potential overthrow of governments.

      “BBC Media Action was founded in 1999 by the BBC as its international development charity. We apply the editorial standards of the BBC, build on its values and often work closely with the BBC World Service and other BBC departments. However, we are legally and financially independent and work to a distinct mission. Originally known as BBC World Service Trust we changed our name to BBC Media Action in December 2011.

      As an independent charity, we are not funded by the BBC licence fee. Our work is made possible thanks to the support of our generous donors – governments, foundations, corporations and individuals”

      What is the BBC doing in other countries????

  • jmg

    So, according to the updated article, Nadira was also in danger as an UK dual national. At least the UK government warned it would wash its hands, Pontius Pilate style, and would not assist her.

  • nevermind

    A big hug to Nadira, Craig, I feel it would have been a one way.trip for both of you going by the response you received from the FCO.
    You have taken a wise decision and Nadira will be doing her best to honour her dad.

  • PhilW

    Many condolences to Nadira on her loss.

    It is terrible that you cannot both go safely to Uzbekistan. But in the circumstances I am very relieved that neither of you is going. Given what is happening to Julian it is evident that there will be those who would not be sorry to see you silenced as well, and I am sure there will be those in Uzbekistan more than happy to oblige.

    • nevermind

      You are putting words to my thoughts, Phil W.
      I think Nadiras dad would be really proud reading her poem.
      I equally feel that he would have loved to see Julian set free to recover.
      Iam sure that many established snolly gosters and officials would love to see Craig silenced, using his personal grief and circumstances to stall him, during the most important election for the last 60 years. How better than to hire a hire a few nutcases to do it abroad, out of sight, out of mind, with a special notice issued to keep quiet about his disappearance.

      If one can.keep the UKs long history of supporting islamic terror groups from the general publics view,
      then one can keep anything from them.

  • giyane.

    I thought it was a polemic against Britain’s foreign policy. So sorry. I’ll read it again.

  • Dungroanin

    I suppose i find it outrageous that such consideriations are required on what after all is a little blue dot in the universe. Sad. Sentience we are not yet.

  • Tom Joad

    All over the world we are thinking of you, of your family and of Rustam Aliev
    Your lovely poem paints a figure that demands respect
    May you find peace, and continue to shine his light

  • Brianfujisan

    Thanks for the Update Craig

    Nadira’s Beautiful words Echoes around.. Maybe there is a wee bit of Scotland where you can both have a Quiet moment.

  • Anonymous London

    Goes to show what dubious motives the FCO has. It should be impartial on matters of a persons security rather than concocting political stunts and giving the proverbial middle finger. Oh well, at least she will be safer in the UK hopefully.

    • Komodo

      Dunno about the motives – and who does?- but we are no longer an imperial power with global reach, and even if we were, sending a gunboat to Tashkent would present a major logistical problem due to the lack of sea. Also, we wouldn’t want to jeopardise our co-operation with the Uzbeks’ development of their capital markets, would we?

  • Andyoldlabour

    Craig, so sorry that you and Nadira cannot go to the funeral, but given the latest news, particularly from the FCO, a pragmatic conclusion has been reached.
    Global politics is a very dirty scene and we are just pawns being used and disposed of in the “great game”.

  • SA

    There is a lot of goodwill amongst readers to this post and a palpable relief I think that pragmatism has won the day. Could this goodwill be translated to something more Tangible? Could a fund be started to commemorate Nadira’s father Rustum ? The happenings are such that it raises so many poignant points about the current state of the world, the individual as a victim of the state and of geopolitical manipulation. If such a fund is formed in order to start a commemorative event or a conference to highlight this and other cases including that of Assange for example, I for one would be prepared to contribute a modest amount and I am sure others also would.

  • Suhayl Saadi

    I’m very sorry for your loss, especially under these sudden and unexpected circumstances. Please accept my condolences.

  • Uzbek in the UK

    My condolences to Nadira. For one who has most relatives back in Uzbekistan it is particularly heartbreaking to read, and I fully share her pain. Seeing your parent to the resting place is very important in our Uzbek culture.

    I am also convinced that you have made right decision. Despite recent somewhat positive changes, Uzbekistan is still lawless society, even if law exists it still does not work at large. Traveling there without consular protection is big risk. There were cases in the last couple of years of people being locked up, children not allowed to leave Uzbekistan with their parents, because they acquired Uzbek nationality through one of their parents, cases of people not being able to leave Uzbekistan for months, loosing their jobs in Russia/Europe/US as result and putting their family at financial risk.

    Lets hope that one day, Nadira, you and Cameron will be able to visit late Rustam aka’s (addressing someone who is elder in Uzbek) resting place and pay your respect and say words of apologies for absence.

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