Editor’s comment: Why I am sickened to still be writing of Nazanin’s Iran hell

Al Murray performs at a comedy night for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe at Conway Hall.

Al Murray performs at a comedy night for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe at Conway Hall. - Credit: Archant

It is part of writing for local newspapers that you find yourself covering the same stories year after year.

There is something familiar and reassuring that the traditional annual events that are an integral part of our community keep going.

An example of this is the Lauderdale House annual Easter celebrations. Each Easter children and families descend on the idyllic surroundings of the house, in Highgate Hill, to decorate eggs and then to race them down the hill in Waterlow Park. The delight on the children’s faces is always a joy to see.

But as I finished writing this story I then turned to another identical story to one I wrote last year. And this is a story I am absolutely sickened to be writing again a year on – the second anniversary of the arrest and incarceration of West Hampstead mum Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe in Iran.

Nazanin and her daughter Gabriella, now three, were arrested at Tehran Airport on April 3, 2016. She is serving a five-year arbitary sentence imposed by the Iranian Revolutionary Court for plotting to overthrow the regime – a charge which she vehemently denies – while Gabriella is trapped in Tehran is being looked after by her Iranian grandparents.

How can there be any joy in writing the story about her continued imprisonment a year later? I am even writing an almost identical sickening story about a tree for Nazanin that her family and supporters decked with yellow ribbons being sabotaged and stripped almost bare.

I and her growing number of supporters feel gloom, desperation and frustration that Nazanin is still in jail and the British government has failed to secure her release. However, this year her brave husband Richard Ratcliffe, who has been campaigning tirelessly for her release, decided that the second anniversary of Nazanin’s arrest would this year be a day of laughter.

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On Tuesday, comedians including Al Murray, Sarah Pasco and Shappi Khorsandi took to the stage for a fantastic night of comedy at Conway Hall, in Holborn. “To remind Nazanin that there is joy waiting for her and to lift her spirits,” said Richard.

Many tears have been shed during the two years since Nazanin’s arrest but last night there were tears of laughter at the brilliant acts.

There was also a sense of unity, determination and defiance to keep campaigning so that next year the story I write is different and Nazanin is back home to read it.