London is our warzone: Iranian journalist says working in UK is huge risk as ex-minister suggests cutting ties

19 April 2024, 17:38 | Updated: 20 April 2024, 01:24

An Iranian journalist has said working in the UK is a huge risk.
An Iranian journalist has said working in the UK is a huge risk. Picture: X/NazeninA/Alamy
Fraser Knight.

By Fraser Knight.

An Iranian journalist working in London has told LBC she’s always looking over her shoulder, as she said working in the UK is just as dangerous as entering a warzone.

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Nazenin Ansari, editor of Kayhan London, made the claim just three weeks after another Iranian journalist was stabbed outside his house in Wimbledon.

“Every step I take, every face I see, I have to look at twice,” she said.

“You usually hear about war reporting and the dangers of the journalists who go to war zones. In a way, being here on the streets of London and always not knowing what’s lurking in the shadows, it has its own dangers.

“You never know what will happen, but I have taken precautions at home, for my children, and as much as I can online as well."

On Thursday, the terror legislation tsar, Jonathan Hall KC, told Tom Swarbrick on LBC the threat of attacks from Iranian-backed actors in the UK is “very, very big”.

Counter terrorism police have said at least 15 have been made by Iran to kill people in the UK since 2022.

One TV organisation – Iran International – was forced to relocate from London to the US after a credible threat was made at the start of last year.

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Nick Aldworth told LBC Iran is “almost certainly” attempting to recruit British hitmen to do their work
Nick Aldworth told LBC Iran is “almost certainly” attempting to recruit British hitmen to do their work. Picture: Alamy

Nick Aldworth, the UK’s former Counter-Terrorism National Coordinator and now Director of Intelligence and Risk at Carlisle Support Services, said the state is “almost certainly” attempting to recruit British hitmen to do their work.

“Ideally these states would prefer that these dissidents are neutralised without them getting their hands dirty, without a trace back to the state itself, because that has significant diplomatic implications.

“One of the great routes for them to do that is employing local criminals to do that for you.”

Earlier this week, The Guardian reported that police believe the stabbing of Iran International presenter Pouria Zeraati was carried out by three Eastern European men hired by the Iranian government.

Enquiries are said to have led them to believe they were flown into Britain to carry out the attack and fled on separate commercial flights from Heathrow Airport.

Calls have been growing for the government to proscribe the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist organisation, including from the former home secretaries Suella Braverman and Priti Patel.

Tom Swarbrick takes your calls with terror watchdog Jonathan Hall KC

Jonathan Hall, the independent reviewer of terrorism laws, told us that would be a ‘unique move’ though because of them being a part of the country’s government.

He warned it would essentially cut diplomatic ties with the country, become a political debate and devalue our approach to terrorism.

But speaking to LBC, the former counter terrorism minister Dr Kim Howells, questioned the benefit of still having a line of communication with Tehran.

“What is the influence we have and what do those contacts mean in terms of what’s going on in the world? They don’t seem to mean very much.

“We don’t seem to have much influence on the decisions that the government of Iran makes.

“It seems set on making its own decisions about trying to fund terrorism and promote dissent right around the world.”

The IRGC was designated a terrorist organisation in the US in 2019 by Donald Trump but the UK hasn’t followed suit, over concerns it could have implications, including for the British embassy in Tehran.