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.

122 thoughts on “Rustam Aliev

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  • John Pillager

    This poem is beautiful and heart breaking.
    Even more heart breaking would be for you two to disappear in Uzbekistan.
    Please be careful and keep safe.
    For your children…

  • SA

    Very moving. My condolences to Nadira and to you. Hope all goes well with your going back to the funeral.

  • Republicofscotland

    My condolences to you and your wife on your loss. Be very careful over there, just remember what happened to QC Paul McBride on a seemingly innocuous visit to Pakistan a few years back.

    Would it not be better if your wife went and you stayed at home? Especially if the FCO afford you no protection.

    • John Pillager

      “Especially if the FCO afford you no protection.”
      l would imagine, given that Craigs writings are a thorn in the sides of the Establishment, he should expect the complete opposite of protection. :O(

  • giyane

    Thank you so much for sharing this moment of grief with us all.
    What a wonderful gift from a parent, freedom. Especially when perhaps his own freedom was curtailed.
    Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raajioun/ Indeed we belong to Allah and indeed to Him we will definitely return.
    I hope you both manage to travel safely together back to Uzbekistan.

  • Anne Johnston

    So very sorry, Nadira. most beautiful words.
    Parents know. They do. We know our children.
    Love to you and Craig. X

  • Trowbridge H. Ford

    Really sad for anyone to die, especially such a young relative; It almost always comes as such a surprise.

    Hope you manage to find the time and will to write a tribute to Rustam.

  • On the train

    That is very powerful….I can imagine how Nadira feels, with the natural anguish of losing a parent amplified by distance…and such distance. Nadira’s poem makes me think of Picasso’s Image of “ The Crying Woman”.
    God be with you on your momentous journey.

  • Neil

    Wow, that’s a very powerful and moving poem.

    Even more so, given that English is not Nadira’s mother tongue, and poetry is hardest of all in a foreign language. Nadira is an exceptional woman, and you are very fortunate to have her as your wife.

    You’re both taking an obvious risk going back, but I’m sure there are also a lot of good people there, who haven’t forgotten what you did for them.

  • Tom Joad

    ‘Go fly, you have wings, don’t be afraid,
    find your way, be your own kind’

    He wanted you to fly.
    And you did.
    That was the best homage to him.
    No need to return to the cage.
    Fly .
    For him.

    Commiserations with your loss

  • Monster

    Time will heal, Nadira, your poetry gives a beautiful account of your father. I think Craig will be safe for the time being as MI6 is trying (and failing) to kill Florida sheriff John Dougan, who fled to Russia with a computer file of 700 videos copied from the FBI’s raid on Epstein’s island. According to Dougan, of the the few he watched about Andrew they contained the most sick and disgusting acts he has ever witnessed as sheriff.

  • Dave Tuck

    This was so moving. Please pass over that our thoughts are with Nadira. Hope the situation with the Foreign Office gets sorted

  • Willie

    A daughter losing a father is the heartache of heartache.

    Sixty is not old and the suddenness of the loss makes it even more raw. And yes, all the thoughts about had I just phoned last night, or phoned more often, they are but the thoughts that loss induces.

    But someday as the grief and shock lessens Nadira will be able to look back with a smile and maybe a laugh on the good, the bad, and the ridiculous of her special life with her Dad. And yes, isn’t it the same love that made her father think that he had not done enough for his daughter..

    In the meantime I hope you will both be safe or as safe as you can in your return to Uzbekistan.

  • Brianfujisan

    Sorry to hear that.My condolences to you all..

    Very Emotional and Touching words from Nadira..

    Stay Safe All.

  • Martin Kernick

    All words seem insufficient in the face of the loss of a loved one… but Nadira’s are beautiful. Any Father would be proud of her eloquence and her passion. Take care both of you.

  • Andrew Ingram

    My condolences to Nadira and your extended family.
    Nadira’s poem touched a chord with me as it will with others – we are all Jock Tamson’s bairns.
    Safe journey.

  • Mary

    I am so sad to hear that and send condolences and thoughts to Nadira. Her father was too young to have died and I am sorry that Nadira did not get to see him. . He must have been very proud of her and to know she was happily married to you and that he had his grandson.

  • Paul McMullen

    Terrible news. I shall be thinking of you and your families until we hear from you again. May the Great Spirit protect you on your journey.

  • N_

    My condolences, and I hope you both have time in Tashkent that is untroubled by hassle from the authorities or anyone else.

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