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

1 2 3
  • Petra

    What a heartbreak for your wife, Craig, and what a beautiful poem in remembrance of her beloved father.

    She’s asking questions now, saying what she reckoned she should have said when he was still alive and wanting to turn the clock back to make her “amends.” The “if only” guilt trip will kick in but she should be reassured that everyone who ever loses a loved one, no matter if they lived and showed their love for them 24×7, is also left with the “if only.” He clearly loved her and she him. From now on, for the next couple of years or so (hopefully less), you will have to be there for her, support her and help her to understand that.

    Safe journey and return to you both X

    RIP Rustam Aliev XX

  • Hatuey

    I really don’t think you should go back there.

    And I’m sorry for your wife’s loss, of course.

    I’m not great with emotional stuff but I don’t think either of you should risk going back to that snake-pit.

    If her father could speak, I think he’d say the same, for what it’s worth.

  • DebC

    Craig, I’ve been lurking here for as long as I can remember. But this comment is not about you. Nadira, Dear-heart, I feel the pain your soul has expressed in this beautiful poem, a tribute to your father and the love you felt for him. Go home, and take Craig with you — if it’s safe enough for you both. Remember, he’s your rock now, the answer to all the questions you asked of your father in that poem. Let him help you remember — and forget.

    Craig — please be careful! We, all over the world, need your voice…

  • Petra

    And I forgot to add that the distance between them at this time matters profoundly. My father died in Australia. I was told that his time was up by my sister and knew that I couldn’t get there before he died. I talked to my father on the phone and it was clear (although was drugged up) that he thought that he was alright. I knew that he was dying, but couldn’t tell him so. It was a terrible, devastating, phone call altogether. I broke down (highly unusual for me) and he demanded that he speak to my husband, saying “what on earth is wrong with …..”

    Anyway I was totally heartbroken when he died and then a wise friend, who’d experienced a great deal of loss, said if your father had wanted you to be there, you would have been there. When I considered his words, in relation to the people that I’d lost, I realised that he was right. My father and I were so close it would have made our parting unbearable and more so far too difficult for him. My mother and I didn’t have a good relationship but I was there holding her hand at the end, telling her how much I loved her which had to be said. I may be wrong about this, but if I’m right I hope it gives Nadira some comfort, as my friend’s words did for me.

  • Lincolnite

    I do understand that if you travel you travel together Craig and you, more than most will be aware of the difficulties. As you are not traveling for business or tourism the advice is to contact the Uzbekistan Embassy for a visa.
    “ If you’re travelling on a different type of British passport, are travelling for a purpose other than tourism or business, or intending to stay longer than 30 days, you should check entry requirements with the Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan in London.“
    Your greater risk is will the Uzbek authorities recognize your wife’s British citizenship or claim her as an Uzbek.
    Hard times, difficult decisions.

  • Ros Thorpe

    A moving tribute. It’s understandable that your wife wants to go to Tashkent but I would think carefully about it. Would her father want her to risk that?

  • Andyoldlabour

    Take care Craig, give Nadira my condolences, and please keep a very low profile whilst you are there.

  • M.J.

    Why not make an informal enquiry in person with the Uzbekistan embassy? If they invite you to return for paperwork which you know shouldn’t be necessary, it may be well to play safe and send flowers instead of going.

  • Anthony

    Condolences, Craig. Lovely heartfelt poem by your wife. But please think hard on the risks of returning to Uzbek. If you were detained you could expect little sympathy from the 77th brigade media back here. Yours is an influential voice of dissent they would be happy to see silenced.

    • Dee Fenestrates

      Horrible news: condolences to your better half, Craig.

      To Anthony:
      Whoever you believe your 77th brigade might be, you’re quite wrong about any Establishment desire to silence Mr M. The idea that his opinions from Skripal to Scottish Independence might be any kind of thorn in anyone’s side is risible. Somewhat less so his championing of Assange, and long may that continue.

      Not remotely risible, however, is the risk of a trip to Uzbekistan, and I suspect he is therefore sharing this very sad personal moment with his loyal readership in order to give the widest diffusion possible to this regrettable and painful but necessary visit.

      Prosperum iter facias, Craig

      • Anthony

        Presimably they don’t regard Assange as a thorn in their side either. Just smearing and railroading him for no reason. Likewise the relentless targeting of Craig and his wife by the Philip Crosses/ Oliver Kamms of this world. All for no reason…

  • Yarkob

    This made me cry. And send a long text to my daughter. My thoughts are with Nadira.

    Her dad flies free and knows everything Nadira wants to say to him.

  • mark golding

    Much love to Nadira.

    US intelligence agencies have concluded that Russian intelligence services were behind the hack of the Democratic National Committee and passed the information on to Wikileaks, which the CIA has labelled a “non-state hostile intelligence service.”

    “I know who leaked them [the DNC emails to WikiLeaks]. I’ve met the person who leaked, and they are certainly not Russian and it’s an insider. It’s a leak, not a hack; the two are different things.”

    Of course in combination these two statements reveal a danger. Please take care in Tashkent.

  • Pete

    My condolences to you both, and take care when you’re in Uzbekistan.

    My dad died 21 years ago. As time goes by, I’ve realised firstly that the qualities he had that caused clashes between us were actually good qualities, and secondly that I am glad to have inherited most of them.

  • Dungroanin

    Please consider the future of kids without parenting.

    The departed can not be helped. If the stroke had not been lethal then perhaps a necessary risk. Grieving is necessary but not recklessness.

    You must both do what you think is best.


  • ciaran

    Deepest sympathies to Nadira and Craig,
    You are in my thoughts
    Take care and get back safe.

  • AJ

    Hi, Craig,
    Please give Nadira my condolences.
    I know such things don’t help much, but who knows – maybe they help a tiny bit?
    – AJ

  • Pyewacket

    Best wishes to you and your family Craig, at this difficult time. It’s not an easy place to be, grieving and no doubt being run off your feet trying to get stuff sorted. Along with other commenters here, I have concerns for your family’s safety and well being in returning to Uzbekistan. These concerns are related to whatever the attitude of the Uzbek authorities is, in relation to your book MiS. They may of course, view it as all water under the bridge, on the t’other hand there may still be people around who will be more than happy to mix you a bottle, particularly with respect to Nadira. Even if there’s nowt to charge you with, holding you while they conduct enquiries and investigations is a real possibility. Take care.

  • Colin Alexander

    I’m sorry to hear of your family bereavement.
    I’m sure you know you and your wife are like Daniel going into the lion’s den in returning to Uzbekistan.
    I hope that both of you will return safely like Daniel did.

  • Komodo

    Sincere condolences.
    Mirziyoyev has relaxed restrictions on the media. It might be a good idea to seek press accreditation or a good friend in one of the permitted outlets as well as remaining in constant touch with home via Facebook (currently permitted) – while resisting any temptation to criticise the regime. You can do that when you get back.

    Currently permitted:
    Eurasianet, Fergana News, Human Rights Watch, and the BBC’s Uzbek service. In the past two years, Eurasianet, Voice of America (Amerika Ovozi), and the BBC’s correspondents have all received accreditation. (HRW)

  • John Pillager

    From Craigs Wiki page,
    “Murray collapsed during a medical check in Tashkent on 2 September 2003 and was airlifted to St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Murray returned to work in mid-November 2003. Only a few days after his return to Uzbekistan, Murray suffered another health crisis and was again flown back to London for medical treatment. It turned out to have been a near-fatal pulmonary embolism on a lung.”
    Doesn’t sound like a healthy or safe place to be for Craig for some reason..

    • Neil

      No, that period of ill-health was due to the New Labour government (esp Jack Straw) and its Civil Service, not the Uzbeks or Uzbekistan.

      What hurts is betrayal by your own side; Craig knew how appalling the Uzbek regime was, and could handle it.

      Read “Murder in Samarkand”.

  • Brendan

    Very sorry for Nadira’s loss. Safe trip to both of you.

    You’ve probably done this already, given that you wrote to request assistance and protection, but anyway – as a precaution, you should both let it be clearly known that you will require British consular assistance if you run into any trouble. The reason you should do that is the precedent set by the UK by cutting Sergei and Yulia Skripal off from the outside world – it refused to let Russian officials talk to him despite their right to do so.

  • Gary

    At what must be a very hard time, compounded by being so very far away, I hope you will both still be very careful of your personal safety while travelling.

    Being very high profile and perhaps not considered the ‘friend’ of a few governments could make this a riskier endeavour than for most.

    I do hope you get a reply from FCO but I’m sure you’re not holding your breath either. I don’t want to sound paranoid but maybe there’s nothing wrong with a bit of paranoia at times like this…

  • Elizabeth Murray

    Craig, please pass my sincere condolences to Nadira. I hope you both are able to travel expeditiously without hindrance. Elizabeth

  • MJ

    I echo those voices advising caution about returning to Uzbekistan. On the other hand I’m sure you know the score better than anyone.

  • Fwl

    Turning back time – when we think about our parents – not to have missed opportunities and failed to say things. Many of will understand something of the feeling in Mrs Murray’s words. We can but try to make the best of the time we have and remember that we don’t know how long we are here for and we don’t know how long each and every person we encounter be they family friend or foe has on this earth. If we remember that maybe we treat them better. But it is very difficult to remember – well I find it difficult. My condolences and safe journey.

  • Brianfujisan

    Flw.. Well said.. Cheers

    For Nadira –

    Time Tries to Heal Us

    May memories again Smile

    Remembering Them.

1 2 3

Comments are closed.