Editor’s comment: Show support for Ratcliffe family by watching play

Show support for Nazanin Ratcliffe as play comes to Hampstead.

Show support for Nazanin Ratcliffe as play comes to Hampstead. - Credit: Archant

In October I watched a play about the devastating story of West Hampstead mum Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe - who has spent two years trapped in an Iranian jail cell falsely accused of being a spy.

As I watched the powerful performance of Looking for Mummy - Nazanin’s story, by Emi Howell, many of us in the audience were moved to tears.

It was painful to watch Nazanin in her prison cell, recounting how she was seized at Tehran airport and her grief as she was torn apart from her 22-month-old daughter Gabriella, thrown into jail and solitary confinement and interrorgated by Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Watching her being dragged into the Iranian Revolutionary court, accused of charges of plotting against the Iranian state with no lawyer to represent her, and sentenced to five years in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison was devastating.

However, the play, along with Nazanin’s own story, is not devoid of hope. And both are still a work in progress. Nazanin’s situation is changing every day and none of us know what the ending will be.

At the Ham&High, we believe the best thing we can do to ensure a happy ending is to keep Nazanin’s name alive through our pages.

To do this, we have organised to bring this play, which is currently on tour around the UK, home to Hampstead with a special performance at JW3, in Finchley Road.

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Thanks to the generous support of JW3 CEO Raymond Simonson, the performance will take place at the 270-seat auditorium with tickets costing £10 each.

It will be followed by a unique chance for the audience to hear from Richard Ratcliffe who will answer questions about his campaigning and give us an insight into his struggle.

The play was first performed at the Edinburgh Festival and to quote the review in The Independent by Peyvand Khorsandi: “This brand new play has the audience on the edge of their seats with an electrifying portrayal of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s ongoing struggle to be released from an Iranian prison.

“That very campaign inspires this work: a powerful relaying of an ongoing story that engages the audience viscerally without any cheesy moralising.

“This play entertains and inspires.”

Khorsandi continues: “A friend refused to join me to watch it. “God how depressing,” she said. This production is far from depressing, however. It is doing its bit to keep this story from becoming wallpaper by pointing to the hypocrisy not just of the Iranian regime but also, sadly, our elected representatives in Westminster and the business interests they serve.”

As I began to organise this event, I thought, but how will a play touring the UK actually have any influence on Nazanin’s fate in Iran? But then a colleague reminded me of Jill Morrell, the journalist who campaigned constantly to keep her boyfriend John McCarthy in the public eye after he was kidnapped in Lebanon in April 1986. Through her Friends of John McCarthy campaign, Jill never gave up shouting his name and fighting for him.

McCarthy was eventually released after five years. “You never know,” said my colleague, “what the deciding factor will be and what will finally shift the balance towards release and until then, like Jill Morrell, you keep doing everything. Anything - however small it may seem - to raise awareness.”

This month, an Iranian judge told Nazanin that she was being held because of the British government’s refusal to pay back, with interest, a debt owed to Iran.

Richard’s character in the play says: “I feel that the British government does not have my family’s best interests at heart. We are so tired of being political pawns.”

None of us, apart from Boris Johnson and foreign office colleagues, know what is going on behind the scenes. In the meantime we must keep shouting Nazanin’s name.

Do join us on March 17 to show support for the Ratcliffe family. Visit: jw3.org.uk for tickets.