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Keep Nazanin in the light, says husband of woman imprisoned in Iran

27 January 2017


Not forgotten: Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of the imprisoned charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, at a vigil outside the Iranian Embassy last week

Not forgotten: Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of the imprisoned charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, at a vigil outside the Iranian Embassy last ...

THE rehabilitation of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian mother imprisoned in Iran, will be aided, when her imprisonment ends, by the kindness shown by those campaigning for her release, her husband has said.

On the day that she came out, she would “get to see that she wasn’t forgotten”, her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, said on Monday. “It will be a long journey back. She has had a profound experience of cruelty, which would shake your faith and trust in people. To see that people are good and kind and caring as well, will be a really important thing.”

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has dual British and Iranian citizenship, was detained in April while trying to leave Iran with her two-year-old daughter, Gabriella. They had been visiting relatives (News, 24 June 2016). Gabriella’s passport was confiscated, and she has since been looked after by her grandparents. Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment by the Revolutionary Supreme Court in September.

The precise charges against her have not been made public, but, in June, the state news agency said: “Through membership in foreign companies and institutions, she has participated in designing and executing media and cyber plots with the aim of the peaceful overthrow of the Islamic Republic establishment.” The decision was upheld by the appeal court this week.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, which provides journalism training and promotes human rights. It does not operate in Iran, and she has had no dealings with the country in a professional capacity.

Currently being held in Evin Prison, Tehran, she had no access to a lawyer until day 130 of her detention. Her husband was able to speak to her by phone last week. Her mood — she was angry, after being made to wait for hours for a family visit — was a “good sign”, he said, given that months earlier she had seemed “broken”. He previously warned that she had contemplated suicide. He has asked the President, Hassan Rouhani, for an invitation that would enable him to visit Iran.

Gabriella had gone through different phases since being taken from her mother, he said. “It was very traumatic, in that she had not been away from her mother for more than a few days. Then she got to see her again; so that was an adjustment. She has adapted to being in Iran, and learned Farsi, and adapted to her granny being her mum, her primary carer. . . Now she is getting more curious again. She understands she is from London. She remembers some things, and wants to go there again, and knows she needs to bring her mother back.”

Although some people had advised him not to go public with the case, his “gut instinct” was to do so: it was a means of wresting back some control. Campaigning also served a “therapeutic” purpose, he said: the support received was “almost like pastoral support”, and would play a part in his wife’s rehabilitation. During a visit to Iran last week, the Foreign Minister, Tobias Ellwood, raised Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s case.

Mr Ratcliffe, however, does not believe that everything possible is being done. The UK Government has yet to criticise his wife’s treatment, or to call for her release. He has met neither the Foreign Secretary nor the Prime Minister. Meanwhile, supporters continue to agitate for Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s freedom. They gathered in front of Downing Street shortly before Christmas to sing carols and raise awareness of her plight (News, 23/30 December).

“The most helpful thing people can do is keep on caring and sharing,” he said. “Keeping her in the light, and keeping reaching out to her, is really valuable, and will help her rehabilitation afterwards.”

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