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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: West Hampstead mum moved to Iranian mental health unit, but blocked from contact with worried family

PUBLISHED: 07:14 17 July 2019 | UPDATED: 07:16 17 July 2019

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with a young Gabriella before Nazanin was arrested in April 2016. Picture: Free Nazanin

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with a young Gabriella before Nazanin was arrested in April 2016. Picture: Free Nazanin

Archant

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been transferred to a mental health ward in Iran and denied contact with her family.

Richard Ratcliffe continues his hunger strike outside the Iranian embassy in London. Picture: Polly HancockRichard Ratcliffe continues his hunger strike outside the Iranian embassy in London. Picture: Polly Hancock

The West Hampstead mum, who has now been imprisoned for 1,201 days, is under the guard of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC).

Nazanin was arrested while on holiday in Iran with her young daughter Gabriella.

Her health has been precarious for some time. She has previously been referred for psychiatric treatment, but it is not currently known what her care on a mental health ward at the Iman Khomeini hospital in Tehran is like.

She was not given assurances as to contact with her family and was forced to wear handcuffs in hospital despite demanding otherwise.

She thought that to refuse the transfer to hospital could have been used by the Iranian authorities as evidence she had denied the medical treatment she has long been demanding - including on the two hunger strikes this year.

On Tuesday night, after Nazanin's father had spent the day waiting without success to see his daughter - he had brought her a lunch of a kebab and rice - the family released a statement confirming Nazanin had been hospitalised.

In it, Richard quotes Nazanin as saying: "I was healthy and happy when I came to Iran to see my parents. Three and a bit years later and I am admitted to a mental health clinic. Look at me now - I ended up in an asylum. It should be an embarrassment."

"Prison is getting harder and harder for me. I hate being played in the middle of a political game. I just hate it."

Richard added: "Nazanin hoped that her hunger strike would move the Iranian authorities, and it clearly has. Hopefully her transfer to hospital means that she is getting treatment and care, despite my distrust of just what pressures can happen behind closed doors. It is unnerving when we don't know what is going on."

"I am glad her dad has been down there to keep vigil outside. Mental hospital has its worries at the best of times - but particularly when kept isolated and under the control of the Revolutionary Guard."

Nazanin's health is supposed to be assessed by the Iranian Health Commission, but a report has been "suppressed".

Over two months ago the psychiatrist who saw her recommended that she be instantly hospitalised due to her "sharp deterioration" since her previous appointment.

But this report was never not sent on to the Health Commission for review.

Nazanin's physical health also remains precarious. Blood test results have been witheld, and husband Richard - who himself went on hunger strike outside of the Iranian Embassy in Knightsbridge - said he was not confident they would ever be released.

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Richard explained that while the hunger strike has ended, Nazanin was not eating properly due to the severe stress she is under.

He told this newspaper: "Physically I think she is still struggling to eat, but that is probably due to stress and anxiety rather than the direct consequences of the hunger strike."

Ellie Kennedy, Amnesty International UK's individuals at risk campaigner, said: "Yet again, the fear must be that the Iranian authorities are playing games with Nazanin's health and well-being.

"The fact that this has been done without her family's involvement suggests the real motive may be more to do with exerting pressure on Britain, rather than providing Nazanin with treatment."

She added: "After all she and her family have been through, the time really has come for the Tehran authorities to bring this to an end, to release her and let her travel back to the UK with her daughter Gabriella."

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: "The government remains extremely concerned about the welfare of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

"We are in regular contact with Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband and our Embassy in Tehran has consistently requested consular access.

"We urge Iran to allow family members to visit and check on her care as a matter of urgency.

"We will continue to call for her release at the highest levels."

This comes as human rights charity REDRESS are crowdfunding to raise £15,000 to continue their advocacy on behalf of Nazanin.

The charity is pressing the UK government to improve protection for British citizens detained abroad.

Richard said: "[There are] almost no obligations on the government, so you rely on the personal interest and sense of responsibility of the minister of the day.

"One of the lessons of Nazanin's story is that this is something that needs to change."

Josie Fathers, an advocacy officer at REDRESS explained the fundraising would be essential in helping it continue to work on Nazanin's case.

Josie said since diplomatic protection - which means the UK government now treats Nazanin's case as if it were on between states - had improved dialogue with the Foreign Office.

She added: "We need to apply more pressure."

The REDRESS crowdfunding page at justgiving.com/campaign/help-bring-Nazanin-home.

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