British-Iranian businessman Anoosheh Ashoori who was finally released from an Iranian prison earlier this year said it’s a ‘dream come true’ to run freely as he prepares to take on the London Marathon this weekend.
Mr Ashoori, 68, was detained in Iran while visiting his mother in 2007 and accused of spying – which he denied. He was held for nearly five years before being released alongside Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in March.
He will now be running the marathon on Sunday with his son Aryan, 32, who said they are doing it for the ‘innocent people locked up in Iran’s prisons’.
Today Anoosheh spoke to to ITV’s Good Morning Britain presenters Ben Shephard and Charlotte Hawkins about how running gave him hope during his time in prison, just days before he runs the London Marathon to raise awareness of the detainees he left behind.
‘It’s just a dream come true. I used to imagine how it would be to run freely for example in Greenwich Park or in the parks in London – and today I see that it is coming true – reality,’ he said.
He added: ‘Running helps you fight insanity, and that helped me very much.’
Anoosheh Ashoori, 68, was detained in Iran while visiting his mother in 2007 and accused of spying – which he denied. He was finally released in March this year
He will be running the London Marathon on Sunday and said it took perseverance
Mr Ashoori was inspired by reading ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’ by Haruki Murakami
He plans to run the marathon with his son Aryan, 32, to raise awareness for Amnesty International and Hostage International
Laughing about the fact he wasn’t much of a runner five years ago, he told the presenters ‘I had a big beer belly’.
‘When I was transferred from the interrogation centre into the main prison I met a group of people who did daily exercises. I asked if I could join them and they welcomed me and we started doing these exercises. Part of these involved running.
‘I went short of breath in just short of ten minutes but I persevered, then it became 20 minutes, 30 minutes and then one day I ran for two hours non-stop.’
He said he was also inspired by reading ‘What I talk about when I talk about running’ by Haruki Murakami.
‘I am now dedicating this run to the people of Iran,’ he added.
Since his release from Evin Prison in Tehran, Mr Ashoori has been campaigning on behalf of others detained in Iran, including Morad Tahbaz, 66, a dual national British-US wildlife conservationist jailed for more than four years on spying charges, and fellow UK national Mehran Raoof, 65, a trade unionist also serving a long jail term in Iran.
Anoosheh was freed alongside Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (pictured together on the flight home from Iran)
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori arriving at Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, on March 17
Mr Tahbaz was recently released from Evin Prison on furlough, but is being forced to wear an electronic ankle tag and could be recalled to jail at any time. The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and the United States have previously said they are working closely with each other to try to secure his permanent release.
‘The jailing of Tahbaz and Raoof – as well as Ashoori, Zaghari-Ratcliffe and numerous other individuals in recent years – is part of a clear pattern where the Iranian authorities have brought unfounded national security-related charges against foreign nationals and dual-nationals to exert diplomatic pressure on other countries,’ Amnesty International said.
Mr Ashoori said he’ll be taking on the challenge of the marathon through perseverance.
Mr Ashoori said: ‘I always say that there are two golden rules for victory – rule one is that you should always remember that perseverance pays off, and rule two is that you must never forget rule number one. That’s how I’ll be tackling the London Marathon.’
Elika Ashoori posted this photo of her father Anoosheh Ashoori and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe being reunited with their families at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, after they were freed
Aryan Ashoori added: ‘After recent developments in Iran, I’ve been humbled by the bravery I’ve seen from Iranian women, as well as allies who’ve taken to the streets to fight for their rights to protest and for freedom.
‘I’m dedicating the run to the innocent people locked up in Iran’s prisons, the many lives lost during these protests, and the millions of people fighting for a better future. Thanks for supporting our cause. Humanity will win.’
Mr Ashoori said he is fundraising for Amnesty International and Hostage International.
Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s Chief Executive, said: ‘Anoosheh’s ordeal in Iran only ended a few months ago, so it’s amazing and truly humbling that here he is pounding the streets of London to raise awareness of the plight of Morad and Mehran.
‘This is yet another reminder to the Government that UK nationals are still languishing in detention in Iran and that ministers need to start working with the families to get these people out of detention and back home as soon as possible.
‘On Sunday, everyone at Amnesty will be cheering Anoosheh and Aryan on – and we hope that spectators and TV viewers at home will get behind their efforts to free Morad and Mehran.’