West Hampstead community backs Nazanin 2,000 days since imprisonment

MP Tulip Siddiq with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's family

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq campaigned with Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's family in Parliament Square - Credit: Sally Patterson

West Hampstead residents and MP have gathered in Parliament Square to mark the 2,000th day since Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in Iran. 

On Thursday (September 23), Nazanin’s husband Richard and daughter Gabriella played a giant game of Snakes and Ladders with members of parliament to portray the West Hampstead residents’ plight over the past five and a half years. 

Nazanin was held in Tehran in 2016 on long-refuted national security charges while taking Gabriella to see her family.

Richard and Gabriella Ratcliffe

Richard and Gabriella Ratcliffe frequently speak to Nazanin on the phone - Credit: Sally Patterson

Richard invited MPs to “step onto the board” as a symbolic act of solidarity with himself and the families of other British nationals held in Iran.

The family then handed in a petition to 10 Downing Street, calling for Nazanin and fellow British prisoner Anoosheh Ashoori to be released. 

MP Tobias Ellwood (left), Gabriella Ratcliffe (third left), MP Tulip Siddiq (centre), Richard Ratcli

MP Tobias Ellwood (l), Gabriella Ratcliffe, MP Tulip Siddiq, Richard Ratcliffe and supporters handed in a petition to 10 Downing Street - Credit: PA

Foreign secretary Liz Truss recognised the 2,000-day landmark since Nazanin's "cruel separation from her family" in a statement.

This week she met with Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian at the United Nations General Assembly in New York

Ms Truss said: “She is going through an appalling ordeal. We are working tirelessly to secure her return home to her family.

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“I pressed the Iranian foreign minister on this yesterday and will continue to press until she returns home.”

Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq said the UK government must “take responsibility” and stop using Nazanin as a “pawn”. 

Gabriella Ratcliffe

Gabriella Ratcliffe knocked on the door at Number 10 - Credit: Sally Patterson

She told the Ham&High: “She’s a British citizen, and she should be back here in West Hampstead, reunited with her family. 

“What we can’t ignore is that the UK owes a huge debt to Iran, and until we solve that it doesn’t feel like my constituent is coming home. 

“It feels that it’s the last thing on the agenda, and whilst I recognise there are other big issues, this is a woman’s life- a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister. 

“If we don’t take action, this child is missing out on her childhood with her mother, and Nazanin has also spoken about how time is running out for her to have another child, which she wanted to do."

(left to right) MP Tulip Siddiq, Gabriella Ratcliffe and Richard Ratcliffe hand in a petition to 10

Tulip Siddiq MP (l), Gabriella Ratcliffe and Richard Ratcliffe (r) handed in a petition to 10 Downing Street - Credit: PA

Chief executive of Amnesty International UK, Sacha Deshmukh, praised the role of the local community throughout the past 2,000 days. 

The West Hampstead resident said: “I think they have been enormously supportive, and I think Nazanin is genuinely in the hearts of people right across the community. 

“There are hundreds of locals who have been ardent campaigners for someone who has been wrenched out of the local community.” 

He said the Snakes and Ladders board represents the “games” the government has played with people like Nazanin. 

Chief executive of Amnesty International UK, Sacha Deshmukh,

Chief executive of Amnesty International UK, Sacha Deshmukh, called on the government to act - Credit: Sally Patterson

Amnesty’s bespoke board game features "ladders" such as the UK granting Nazanin diplomatic protection status and Dominic Raab saying Iran’s treatment of her amounted to torture, as well as "snakes", including when the British national was handed a second jail sentence earlier this year. 

“Any step of progress is fragile and can come tumbling back down straight away,” Sacha said. 

“I think it’s very good that Liz Truss has expressed support so quickly, but words now need to be followed up very quickly with action, or they will be even more of the disappointment that we’ve experience over the last few years."

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe board game

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been imprisoned for more than five years - Credit: Sally Patterson

Richard Ratcliffe is also grateful for the support network around himself and the couple's daughter. 

"Landmark days are quite mournful, because it feels like, when are the government going to pull their finger out and deal with this?', he said.

“But one of the mums from school walked past and came and said 'hello', which is lovely.

“The community having been with us from the beginning has meant so much."

Gabriella Ratcliffe

Gabriella Ratcliffe, who is in Year 3, enjoyed playing the giant game of Snakes and Ladders - Credit: Sally Patterson

He said the foreign secretary has offered to speak to Nazanin today, but he is concerned about what the government’s reshuffle will mean for his wife’s case. 

“A fresh start on both sides could be good and could be bad. It’s a new person with a different skillset and charm, so who knows,” he said. 

“This is the first time we’ve had a woman in the role, who is a mother herself and can engage with it on those terms.” 

Gabriella Ratcliffe

Gabriella Ratcliffe stood in Parliament Square to mark 2,000 days since her mother's detention - Credit: Sally Patterson

Tobias Ellwood

Richard spoke with Conservative MP Tobias Ellwood about Nazanin's case - Credit: Sally Patterson

Richard Ratcliffe

Richard Ratcliffe (l) and Nazanin's brother spoke to MPs about her case - Credit: Sally Patterson