Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a charity worker, was visiting family in Iran with her two-year-old daughter, Gabriella, in April this year. They were about to board a plane home to the UK when Nazanin was arrested. More than six months later, Nazanin is still in prison in Iran. In September, she was sentenced to five years behind bars after an unfair trial and the official charges against her remain a secret.
British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in April at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport. She was about to fly home to the UK with her two-year-old daughter, Gabriella, following a family visit. Nazanin was allowed to leave Gabriella with her parents, but the toddler’s British passport was confiscated. Since then Nazanin has been allowed only very restricted visits from her family, subjected to solitary confinement, and accused of plotting the ‘soft overthrow of the Islamic Republic’. She may have been coerced into making a ‘confession’.
Nazanin’s family said she was sentenced to five years in prison on unspecified ‘national security-related charges’ on 6 September. Amnesty does not believe she received a fair trial.
Throughout her time in prison, Nazanin has spent time in solitary confinement, barely been given access to a lawyer and has had very limited contact with her daughter – who is still in Iran with her grandparents, as she had her UK passport confiscated at the airport. She has been treated appallingly, according to my sources.*
This is my short letter to Nazanin:
I’m thinking of you and join the many people calling for your release. Stay strong, you’re not alone.
Your plight is not going unheard.
Have faith in yourself.
Hugs from an icy Yorkshire.
But, why am I telling you this? Not so I get the warm-fuzzy-feel-goods about ‘doing my bit for the needy’ but because this is a toddler’s mum! Imprisoned without charge and held in nightmare conditions.
*Below, I will transcribe the open letter I received from Amnesty tonight. It is written in the first person by the man who knows Nazanin the best; her husband.
The last time I saw my wife and daughter was before they went to visit Nazanin’s family, in April this year. My wife was visiting her parents in Iran with our then 22-month-old daughter, Gabriella – a trip she’s made many times over the years. We had no reason to think that this one would be any different.
But as they were about to board the plane back to the UK, Iranian security forces seized Nazanin at the airport, and confiscated Gabriella’s passport. We have been in a living hell ever since.
Nazanin was arrested, imprisoned and kept in solitary confinement. The interrogators told her she was being detained for ‘national security-related’ reasons. In September, after an unfair trial, she was sentenced to five years in prison.
The charges against her remain a secret, and she has committed no crime. Amnesty considers her a prisoner of conscience and is supporting my calls to release her immediately and unconditionally.
Nazanin is struggling. We have been able to talk a few times on the phone in recent months, and I am increasingly worried about her health. She recently confessed that she has been thinking of ending her life, and has talked at length about feeling suicidal. This is so far from the strong Nazanin that I know and love.
During the past couple of weeks, Nazanin has been on hunger strike in protest at her conditions. She was already experiencing health problems, which have worsened – heart problems, blurred vision, joint pains. Prison officials sent her to hospital, but quickly returned her to her cell. She has agreed to start eating again for the sake of our daughter, but her health problems persist.
We are all struggling with Nazanin’s situation, but one thing keeping us going is support from people who have heard of our situation and are calling for her freedom.
While we continue to call on the UK government and authorities in Iran to do the right thing and let Nazanin and Gabriella come home to the UK as soon as possible, I want to ask for your help to keep Nazanin’s spirits up.
A single message can make the difference between a good day and a bad day to Nazanin, isolated in prison. Every message that you write, Amnesty will post to Nazanin in Prison in Iran.
Send Nazanin a message of hope
We keep fighting for her release, but in the meantime, your support means everything.
Husband of prisoner of conscience Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
There you have it – the plea of a married man and a father to bring his family home. I know that whoever reads this article would move hell & high water to ensure the safe return of their daughter and partner. That is what Richard Ratcliffe is trying to do – all I am asking is for you to sign a letter to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. This is the link you need.
So – I have given you the link – here it is again – please, play your part.