'Boris Johnson hasn't honoured his promises' – Richard Ratcliffe ends hunger strike
- Credit: PA/Aaron Chown/Henry Nicholls
Last month a West Hampstead father began starving himself outside the Foreign Office – and not once did he hear from prime minister Boris Johnson, whose blunder four years ago added to his family's plight.
Richard Ratcliffe has ended the hunger strike he began to try to spark action from the government to secure the release from Iran of his wife.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in Tehran in 2016 after being accused of plotting to overthrow the Iranian government – charges always denied and widely refuted.
Richard was joined by their seven-year-old daughter, Gabriella, on Saturday as he ended his hunger strike after 21 days.
“It’s been a lovely experience emotionally," he said. "Tough physically. But yeah I think it probably is the right time to end it.”
He said he feels like a “greater spotlight” has been shone on his wife’s case, with pressure put on both governments.
“I think we’ve stopped the backward movement," he said. “I’m probably a bit cautious about how far things have moved forwards.
“I was fairly deflated after Thursday’s meeting with [Foreign Office minister] James Cleverly.”
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Mr Ratcliffe met with the minister earlier this week after talks between UK Government officials and Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Ali Bagheri Kani.
In 2017 Boris Johnson, then foreign secretary, mistakenly said Nazanin was in Iran to train journalists –a mistake referenced in Iran.
Following his error, his department indicated that a 40-year-old, £400 million debt owed to Iran – which has been linked with the detention of Nazanin and others in Iran – would finally be paid. It remains unpaid.
On Saturday, Richard said of Boris Johnson: “He hasn’t dealt adequately with Nazanin’s case for years.
“He hasn’t honoured his promises. And we live with those consequences.
“He should be more mindful of that. He shouldn’t just walk away from promises made.”
Richard's strike ended as an artwork was due to be unveiled, made from all the patches supporters have been sending throughout his protest.
He said he was starting to get pains in his feet overnight, and after a chat with a doctor the decision was made to end the hunger strike.
He was due to to hospital to get checked out on Saturday afternoon and hoped to be able to eat something after that.
Reflecting on his last hunger strike, Richard said he recalls there being adrenaline in the middle of it.
“It’s only when it stops that you realise quite the toll it’s taken on your body,” he said.
He offered a “warm thank-you” to everyone who has supported him, saying: "I wouldn’t have got through this alone.
“Such an experience of kindness. I have been humbled by the care we’ve received.”
The visit of the Iranian deputy foreign minister had offered some hope of progress on Nazanin's case but Richard said he did not feel things had “moved forwards” and accused the British Government of not giving a “clear enough message to Iran that hostage-taking is wrong”.
During Richard's demonstration he was visited by supporters including Strictly Come Dancing co-host Claudia Winkleman, writer and presenter Victoria Coren Mitchell, and Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer as well as his Hampstead MP Tulip Siddiq.
Ms Siddiq tweeted on Friday to say she had secured a debate in parliament on Nazanin's situation and urged people to contact their MPs to ask them to speak in Tuesday’s discussion and “make the case for bringing Nazanin home”.
On Thursday a Foreign Office spokesperson said the Iranian deputy foreign minister met James Cleverly and senior government officials, and Foreign Office representatives reiterated that Iran should take the opportunity to conclude the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) nuclear deal on the table.
They added: “The Iranian deputy foreign minister was also pressed on the need for Iran to urgently release all British nationals unfairly detained in Iran, including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Anoosheh Ashoori and Morad Tahbaz.
“Minister Cleverly met Richard Ratcliffe again today to reaffirm our commitment to reuniting his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, with her family in the UK.
“The foreign secretary, Minister Cleverly and the FCDO continue to work hard to secure the release of all those British nationals unfairly detained in Iran.”