Free Nazanin: Gabriella's Christmas card plea to bring her mum home
- Credit: Polly Hancock
Gabriella Ratcliffe has written a Christmas card to the Prime Minister asking for him to bring her mum home.
West Hampstead's Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been held in Iran since 2016, accused of "plotting to topple the Iranian government". She has consistently denied the charges and her imprisonment has been linked to historic debts owed to the country by the British government.
Gabriella, six, and her touching card feature in a short film produced by Amnesty International UK — along with Elika Ashoori whose south Londoner father Anoosheh is also being held in Iran.
Amnesty produced the film as part of a renewed campaign urging Boris Johnson to act to bring their parents home before Christmas. Gabriella was with her mum, and yet to turn two, when Nazanin was arrested at Tehran's airport.
In her card, Gabriella writes: "Please can you bring my mummy home for Christmas. She has been good.
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"When she comes back I want to cuddle her first and then go to the toy shop with her. Merry Christmas to you and your family."
On Saturday Gabriella helped her dad to decorate the Belsize Village "Christmas tree for Nazanin" and visited the Royal Free's community garden, which is dedicated to Nazanin.
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Christmas this year is a "bigger deal" for the youngster, who was only 22 months old when her mother was detained, her father said.
In the video, Gabriella and Elika discuss what they miss most about their mum and dad respectively.
Gabriella explained how she most misses her mother at night, when she “cries”. The families have worked together campaigning, and Richard said meeting someone like Elika, who was going through a similar trauma, helped Gabriella.
This is the fifth year that Richard, Nazanin and Gabriella have been separated at Christmas.
Richard said: "Christmas is quite a landmark and it's quite a family landmark - there's all these family expectations and family films and lots of talking in school."
Over the weekend before Christmas, Richard launched a campaign — called #TastesOfFreedom and inspired by the cooking Nazanin has been doing both in prison and under house arrest — to mark the difference meals can make to mental and physical health.
He asked for supporters to share the meals they cooked which helped them remember normal days.
Writing of the importance of cooking in Nazanin's old prison ward, he said: "Mealtimes helped absorb uncertainty. Their routines broke up the day, with projects that filled time and feelings. Busy fingers quietened busy minds. Ordinary life goes on in extreme circumstances, precisely because normality is needed."
Last week Richard welcomed a strongly-worded report from the Foreign Affairs Committee of MPs which demanded the UK government start calling Nazanin, Anoosheh, and others like them hostages. He told the Ham&High: ""It was pretty clear that the government is not addressing the issue properly, and had some useful suggestions."
But he noted the issue of state-hostage taking in Iran continues, saying: "Aside from the threats of executions actually turning into reality, there are more people being taken."
Nazanin will turn 42 on Boxing Day, still trapped in Iran under house arrest and with a second trial hanging over her. Anoosheh, and a number of others, are in Evin Prison where it is believed Covid-19 continues to circulate.