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Free Nazanin: No parole or Christmas miracle for Nazanin, while more Brits in Iran suffer

PUBLISHED: 09:01 26 December 2019

Richard Ratcliffe -- with daughter Gabriella at Christmas for the first time since 2016 -- singing carols in supported of detained wife Nazanin. Picture: Polly Hancock

Richard Ratcliffe -- with daughter Gabriella at Christmas for the first time since 2016 -- singing carols in supported of detained wife Nazanin. Picture: Polly Hancock

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As Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe turns 41 on Boxing Day, her husband and daughter will be clearing up after the first Christmas they have shared in four years.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been in prison since 2016. Picture: Family of Nazanin Zaghari-RatcliffeNazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been in prison since 2016. Picture: Family of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

This week Nazanin was again denied parole, and in the UK Richard Ratcliffe is putting pressure on Boris Johnson to meet with him again - for the first time since he became prime minister.

Richard - "a rusty parent" as he told this newspaper in the run-up to Christmas - remains set on making sure the newly re-elected prime minister helps his family, and others like them.

Richard said: "There are a number of families feeling abandoned and it's the job of the government and of the prime minister to take care of people and protect citizens."

He said, as he sees it, there are only three ways for the UK authorities to move: To negotiate with Iran and "give it something it wants", to add to the political pressure on the state, or to "work in solidarity with other countries who have people being held to call out Iran's hostage-taking". Richard was clear though, saying: "I am not going to let them just wait."

Supporters of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other UK citizens detained abroad signed a card for Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: Polly HancockSupporters of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other UK citizens detained abroad signed a card for Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Picture: Polly Hancock

So far, in response to a forthright letter, the PM's office suggested Boris Johnson would be willing to meet "at the appropriate time" but has yet to indicate when that would be.

Richard said: "I think we'll still have to push quite hard."

He told the Ham&High the election period had been one of stasis. "I think perhaps we were hoping there would be an election miracle - that we would go from being a bad news story to a good news story for him," he said. "That obviously hasn't happened. We were waiting to see who was going to be in charge and I think the Iranians were waiting to see who was going to be in charge."

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The Iranian authorities have - according to the state media agency - rejected another request from Nazanin's lawyers for parole.

Nazanin is not the only north London resident in Evin Prison. This year, Aras Amiri, who lives in Crouch End and works for the British Council, was jailed on spying charges, too. There has been no sign that she will be released either. The case of British-Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who this week had her appeal against a 10-year sentence rejected, is not a sign of Iran softening its stance on imprisoned foreign nationals.

In West Hampstead, the pace of ordinary life - Gabriella, 5, had a trial day at a local school last week - is a new challenge for Nazanin. Richard said visits to school had gone "very well", but for his wife thousands of miles away, both that, and Christmas time have been reminders of what she is missing.

Richard said: "As time is going on, Nazanin has been feeling more that life is passing her by. When she was really low, I didn't think she would even make it until Christmas without doing something.

"At some point, the only weapon she's got will be to do something again.

"We'll see how Christmas feels for her."

Gabriella, he said, is "gently adapting" to life in West Hampstead. The flat has been updated and she's been settling in, he said, although "there are ups and downs".

As another festive season and more milestones pass, it is still the government which needs to solve Nazanin's case.

Richard said: "We are hoping for the government to make it clear that this needs to stop. To not keep asking nicely and politely."


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