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Birthday party protest for West Hampstead toddler detained in Iran

PUBLISHED: 17:01 10 June 2016 | UPDATED: 17:24 10 June 2016

Friends and family gather in Hyde Park to play games, sing songs and enjoy a picnic

Friends and family gather in Hyde Park to play games, sing songs and enjoy a picnic

Archant

The Ham&High joined friends and family of West Hampstead dad Richard Ratcliffe for a party outside the Iranian embassy to raise the plight of his wife and daughter who are being held in Iran

A cake and balloon for Gabriella who turns two tomorrowA cake and balloon for Gabriella who turns two tomorrow

At first glance it seemed like any other birthday party in the park with children running around, blowing bubbles, playing with balloons, and singing songs.

But this party had one big difference - the birthday girl wasn’t there.

As a group of children and parents joined West Hampstead dad Richard Ratcliffe singing “Happy Birthday” to his daughter Gabriella on her second birthday this afternoon she was watching with a big smile on her face - on a mobile phone in Iran.

The Ham&High joined Mr Ratcliffe, his friends and family at the party in Hyde Park to bring attention to the toddler’s plight as she faces her birthday detained in Iran separated from both her parents.

Gabriella joined the party by videolinkGabriella joined the party by videolink

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tuplip Siddiq also showed her support by attending the picnic with her eight-week-old daughter Azalea.

It is now over two months since Gabriella and her mother Nazanin were seized by security forces at Tehran’s main airport as they arrived for a flight home after visiting relatives on April 3.

Nazanin, 37, of Fortune Green Road, who has dual British and Iranian citizenship, has since been held in jail without charge separated from Gabriella, whose British passport was confiscated.

The toddler is being looked after by her grandparents but is not allowed to leave the country.

Friends brought presents for Gabriella along with a giant teddy bearFriends brought presents for Gabriella along with a giant teddy bear

Until Sunday, Nazanin’s family had been allowed one visit and were in contact with her.

After she was moved out of solitary confinement, she was allowed a daily phonecall to her parents from her prison in Kerman Province.

But after one last phonecall on Sunday, all contact has now been lost and they don’t know where she is.

The party for Gabriella, who joined in on videolink from her grandparents house, was the culmination of a birthday card campaign where more than 2,000 cards from around the world were sent to the toddler via Iranian embassies.

A protest banner for Nazanin and GabriellaA protest banner for Nazanin and Gabriella

Despite the ordeal facing the family. the party was still a happy, upbeat occasion with children running around playing games while their parents sat on picnic blankets chatting.

A smiling Mr Ratcliffe walked around greeting friends and family, in between being filmed for interviews for television channels around the world.

The atmosphere only changed when the group left the park and crossed the road to the Iranian embassy in Princes Gate to deliver a giant birthday card for Gabriella.

Two burly police officers stood outside the embassy door and kept the crowd on the pavement opposite.

MP Tulip Siddiq with baby daughter AzaleaMP Tulip Siddiq with baby daughter Azalea

Everyone became quiet as Mr Ratcliffe, no longer with a smile on his face, approached the door holding his daughter’s card.

He rang the bell and waited. Then a voice from inside the embassy told him to leave the card and they would collect it later when the crowd had gone.

Everyone turned to go back to the park holding their balloons.

Gabriella’s first cousin Rosie Jones, eight, summed up everyone’s feelings when she said: “We just want Gabriella to be here playing with us too. Why can’t the people in Iran let her come back home. We miss her.”

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