Nazanin’s daughter deserves to have her mother next to her

Ana Diamond. Picture: Ana Diamond

Ana Diamond. Picture: Ana Diamond - Credit: Ana Diamond

Ana Diamond (Seyyedeh FZ Jalili), who was sentenced to death in Iran for espionage before eventually being acquitted, has written this open letter asking the country’s Supreme Leader to enable Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to return to her daughter.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Picture: Free Nazanin

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Picture: Free Nazanin - Credit: Archant

In the Name of God, the Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Your Excellency Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei,

I write to you today about Mrs Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman who was arrested in April 2016 with her 22-month-old baby, Gabriella Gissou, and has been imprisoned in Iran ever since. The intention of this letter is to allay her burden of separation and to ease the pain her small child has had to endure for nearly five years, and to help them reunite.

As I am sure Your Excellency remembers, my family and I were tried at the Special Clerical Court in 2016 under Ayatollah Ebrahim Raeisi and Ayatollah Mohammad Jafar Montazeri.

After long series of legal battles with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), I was unjustly and without any credible evidence sentenced to death on false espionage charges. I was only 19 years old when it had all begun, and my only crime was that I had been brought up in the United Kingdom prior to my decision to visit Iran to see my grandparents. My dual nationality had been enough to cause me months of brutal interrogations in the 2-Alef Evin prison on crimes I had never committed, but what had hurt me the most was how I was treated a traitor by the very people who later, after four years, acquitted me, and yet refused to even apologise or to acknowledge what they had done had been gravely unjust, unethical, and un-Islamic.

I understand that the Islamic Republic of Iran has had to face significant challenges under heavy international sanctions, and that perhaps now more than ever Iran is at its most resilient and unwavering. You have, throughout the past four decades, established a leadership that sought to rule with the grace of God and with the empowering chants of Imam Hussein (PHUB), but we cannot dismiss amongst ourselves that there have been many internal shortcomings and faults that have gone unchecked, and at worst, excused, in light of more urgent political priorities.

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The Islamic Iran that once professed to honour the legacy of Imam Ali (PHUB) and Hazrateh Fatemeh (PHUB) and sought to lead by the example of the Imamat has sadly become so distracted by international power conflicts and media wars that it has forgotten its foundational principles. Your Excellency, our Shi’a Imams were killed for their steadfast adherence to justice. Imam Hossein (PHUB) and his 72 family members were martyred because of their dedication to eradicating tyranny and ending oppression.

I ask you to please follow on their footsteps, and to put a stop to this gruelling separation between a mother and a daughter that have yearned for nothing but a comforting and undisturbed embrace. Your Excellency, it has been five long years. Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has nearly served in full what she was initially sentenced to, and she did so in front of the eyes of millions of people. People across the world, Muslims and other persons of faith alike, have all come together in asking for your mercy in allowing her to return to her daughter.

Ana Diamond (Seyyedeh FZ Jalili), with her late grandfather, Ayatollah Gholamreza Hassani. Picture:

Ana Diamond (Seyyedeh FZ Jalili), with her late grandfather, Ayatollah Gholamreza Hassani. Picture: Ana Diamond - Credit: Ana Diamond

Please consider halting any new charges that a handful of influential individuals in the Revolutionary Court and in the IRGC may seek to bring forward to further punish Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe. I trust you to understand that these actions, if even slightly miscalculated, will in equal measure diminish Iran’s legitimacy not only in the international political arena but also in the religious circles. For a well-versed marja’, you would recognise that Islam was built on the values of dignity, equity, and the justice of God in creation and legislation, and consequently realise that we will not be expecting anything less if we are to call ourselves the children of Hazrateh Fatemeh (PHUB) and Hazrateh Zeinab (PHUB).

Please accept my request in the context of the Holy Quran as written in the chapter Noor verse 22: “and let them pardon and let them overlook”, and in the words of Imam Ali (PHUB) that said “Forgiveness is the crown of excellence”. Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was furloughed from Evin prison and has been living with her parents under a house arrest, but she could be with her six-year-old daughter at any minute that you would decide so.

Her daughter is far too young to articulate her feelings into words, but as someone who had to grow up without a mother with politics setting us apart, I am all too familiar with her fate.

Isn’t it enough that one generation stumbles and suffers for the next to learn and grow?

Wasn’t it enough that I languished in solitary confinement for months, disoriented and sick, and had to leave my loved ones behind – much like Gabriella – and to find safety and convenience under the shield of an English name?

As my late grandfather, Ayatollah Gholamreza Hassani, said years ago: “I travelled to Britain and witnessed Islam without pashas, pâsdârs, or gendarme (2), and returned to the land of the Muslims with Peter Pans with bayonets but no Islam.”

With the term ‘pasha’, he referred to the mid-17th century Ottoman adolescent fighters; ‘pâsdârs’ refers to the members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards; and ‘gendarme’ is a reference to the Napoleon-era French paramilitary force.

But here, I beg you to differ; to remain faithful to the compassionate Islamic morals and in doing so abstain from repeating the errors of the past for today’s fleeting world politics. It is only right to acknowledge that her daughter, Gabriella Gissou, deserves to have a mother next to her, and only right that you make it possible before it is too late.

May you hopefully consider my words with care, and may justice always prevail.

Ana Diamond (Seyyedeh F. Z. Jalili) is a British-Iranian former prisoner of 2-A Evin prison and a current human rights activist with the Families Alliance Against State Hostage-Taking.