Free Nazanin: Husband and daughter take petition to Iranian embassy
- Credit: Polly Hancock
The prospect of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe returning home is “hopefully one step closer”, her husband has said.
Richard Ratcliffe said his wife was “beaming” after the West Hampstead mum’s five-year prison sentence in Iran finished on Sunday (March 7) – but he warned it doesn’t feel like the “endgame” just yet.
Despite being released from house arrest and having her ankle tag removed, the 42-year-old is facing a new set of charges on Sunday (March 14), which Richard called “either really worrying” or “some sort of evil noise”.
Alongside a small group of campaigners and family including their daughter Gabriella, six, Richard took a petition with more than 160,000 signatures calling for his wife’s return – but it was refused by the Iranian embassy in Knightsbridge.
Richard told the Ham&High: “We’ve been here quite a few times and I do still find it staggering that they can take someone's wife captive and then not bother to explain what's going on. It's astonishing.
“I got quite angry in the middle of what was supposed to be a quite calm, measured, statesmanlike vigil, but it ended up with a bad-tempered man ringing the doorbell three times.
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“But here we are... we're still not going. Nazanin's still not home.”
Richard welcomed the end of his wife’s prison sentence as “good news”, but said she is still being treated as “collateral” and “leverage” in the “political games” between Iran and the UK.
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“That is unacceptable so part of my job is for us to keep reminding the Iranian authorities that this is no way to behave with an innocent woman,” he said.
“Hopefully this is the last time we're here, and this is going to be solved in next few weeks. But if it isn't we'll be here again.”
Calls for Nazanin's release have been made recently by the prime minister Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary Dominic Rabb, and Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq.
In Knightsbridge, protesters stood in front of the Iranian embassy holding placards carrying the messages “Free Nazanin” and “still not forgotten”.
Richard put his arm around Gabriella as they held a photo of Nazanin, while the six-year-old also crossed off the final date in a calendar that counted the days until “mummy comes back home”, and read out messages of support for her mother.
After years of false dawns, Richard said this moment of promise wouldn’t signal an imminent return for Nazanin, but that his wife’s release felt “one step closer”.
“In reality it feels like I still need to be guarded and watchful,” Richard said.
“But for Nazanin it does feel like she’s almost home. She had a big beaming face [when I last spoke to her].
“She was really happy, enjoying being out, and lots of friends and family were calling up and congratulating us.
“But I was thinking ‘it's not over yet’.”
Looking ahead, while Richard said Nazanin’s imprisonment has had a “seismic” impact on her life, he said his wife’s eventual return would allow his family to heal.
“What we're looking forward to is being normal,” he said.
“In some ways the whole world is going into lockdown, but we really are.
“What it (Nazanin’s return) would mean is that we can start to heal and move on with our lives. Certainly for Gabriella, she doesn't like coming along to events like this.
“She likes being with her classmates at school and being part of the gang, so hopefully normality is now one step closer.”
Nazanin, who was employed as a charity worker for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, has strongly denied the widely refuted allegations that she was plotting to overthrow the Islamic Republic’s government.
She was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport while taking their daughter Gabriella to see her parents in April 2016.
The UK is thought to owe Iran as much as £400 million over the non-delivery of tanks in 1979, with the shipment stopped because of the Islamic revolution.