A senior MP has advised all Westerners to leave Iran after authorities arrested seven people with links to Britain, including some who hold dual nationality.
Alicia Kearns, chair of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said Iran had shown it would “happily” detain people as it seeks to blame foreign powers for escalating protests against its own repressive regime.
She also expressed fears that people could be arrested even as they tried to flee the country.
Ms Kearns said: “My concern is very grave. The fact is that Iran has shown that it will happily arrest anyone that has dual citizenship.”
“If I was a British foreign national in Iran I would absolutely be leaving. Because there is evidence that they will use them in any game of chess they can and they will face brutal repression… I would encourage anyone that was Western to try and leave Iran as safely as they can.”
Iran’s foreign ministry said the arrests of citizens linked to the United Kingdom proved Britain had played a “destructive role” in recent protests in Iran.
The unrest began in September following the death in detention of a 22-year-old Iranian women arrested under Iran’s strict Islamic dress code for wearing “inappropriate” clothing.
Tehran has blamed foreign enemies and their agents for orchestrating the protests, which have turned into a popular revolt by Iranians from all layers of society, posing one of the boldest challenges to the country’s clerical rulers since the 1979 revolution.
Iranian foreign ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani said the foreign detainees’ respective governments had been notified, however the foreign office said it was still seeking clarification.
Asked by a reporter to comment on the arrest of seven people linked to Britain, he said: “Some countries, especially the one you mentioned, had an unconstructive role regarding the recent developments in Iran. Their role was totally destructive and incited the riots”.
The Iranian human rights group HRANA said that as of Sunday, 507 protesters had been killed, including 69 minors. It said 66 members of the security forces had also been killed. As many as 18,516 protesters are believed to have been arrested, it said.
Last month, Rishi Sunak warned that his government was going to have spend more time next year tackling the threat posed by Iran. He told MPs that Iran’s treatment of protesters in recent months was “abhorrent”.
“Whilst Russia and Ukraine remains our number one foreign policy challenge as we go into the new year, I am increasingly concerned about Iran’s behaviour and the treatment of their citizens, what they’re doing in the region, which is destabilising. So I think it’s something that we’ll need to spend an increasing amount of time on going forward,” he said.
The protests were a very clear message that the Iranian people were not satisfied “with the path that the government has taken”, he added.