We must pray for Nazanin's return – and keep shouting her name

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq (right) with then Ham&High editor Emily Banks at a march for Nazanin in 2017

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq (right) with then Ham&High editor Emily Banks at a march for Nazanin in 2017 - Credit: Polly Hancock

In May 2016, I first wrote about Nazanin’s arrest in Iran. 

It is devastating that five years later I am still writing about her.

On Sunday, March 7, Nazanin will have served her jail term and today her release should feel closer than ever, but in familiar pattern of designed cruelty, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG) has refused to give her family any signs of hope.

It is hard to imagine the anguish Nazanin, Richard and Gabriella must feel as they are made to play this barbaric waiting game.

When I first met Richard in a Hampstead cafe six weeks after Nazanin’s arrest, he had been advised by the Foreign Office to stay silent while they worked behind the scenes to get her back. But it soon became clear that if they were doing anything at all, they were failing. 

So, we discussed getting her story out. Neither of us could have imagined then that this horror would last another five years.

I believed that once the public knew an innocent mother and child were being held hostage on false charges, our government would honour its duty to protect British people and secure her release. I couldn’t have been more wrong

It is an outrage that during this time, as Nazanin has been alone in a jail cell denied a fair trial, put in and out of solitary confinement, tormented by guards and denied medical treatment for her deteriorating physical and mental health, three prime ministers and foreign secretaries, Boris Johnson among both, have done nothing to help, and even at times caused harm.

On that first day, I vowed that I would not stop until Nazanin was home and at the Ham&High we began making as much noise as possible publishing stories, petitions, organising marches and events, lighting candles, decorating trees, writing letters and I am proud that this has continued since I have left.

It is devastating to all her supporters that our efforts have fallen on deaf ears in the government and at times it may have felt like we were shouting into the wind.

But we must always remember that wind carried our voices right to Nazanin in her jail cell.

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I will never forget the wonderful moment of speaking to Nazanin on the telephone from jail during one of our protests in 2017. She told me what our support meant to her.

“I am so grateful. It really helps me” she said.

Now as we wait for Sunday, we hope and pray that Nazanin will come home. But if we are disappointed we must wipe our tears, stand back up, and keep shouting Nazanin’s name.

  • Emily Banks is a former editor of the Ham&High.
Richard Ratcliffe with then Ham&High editor Emily Banks in 2017

Richard Ratcliffe with then Ham&High editor Emily Banks at a #FreeNazanin rally in West End Green in 2017 - Credit: Polly Hancock