London, 3 Jul - A British-Iranian charity worker who is currently imprisoned in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison on unspecified national security charges is in a state of despair, according to her husband.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has arrested over a year ago whilst taking her daughter to visit family in Iran, appears to be suffering from hair loss, mood swings and experiencing depression.
She was sentenced to five years, a sentence upheld by the Iranian courts in April, for attempting to overthrow the Regime. This is a common charge levied against anyone that the Iranian Regime doesn’t have evidence against but wants to imprison
It is believed that Zaghari-Ratcliffe may have been targeted due to her previous work at the BBC, whom the Iranian Regime despise because it is streamed by Iranians on illegal satellite dishes and provides a counterpoint to the propaganda aired in Regime-affiliated “news” outlets.
Calling on UK government
Her family in the UK have consistently called on the British government to talk to their foreign counterparts about these fake charges and ensure Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release, but nothing has really materialised.
Richard Ratcliffe said: “We don’t know how long this will last. We’ve had Iran’s elections and UK elections and there’s no obvious sign of anything moving, the whole court case is finished, there is basic powerlessness that there’s nothing we can do.”
He said that he will now recenter his focus on the British government, beginning with his meeting with the new foreign office minister, Alistair Burt, next week.
Ratcliffe said: “Now that we’ve exhausted possibilities in Iran, it’s time to put the focus back on pushing the British government to do more.”
He continued: “I don’t think the [UK] government has been protecting us; they have provided consular assistance and they have expressed concerns, and the ambassador has been to visit Gabriella to check she is OK, but in terms of criticising her treatment and saying it’s abuse, they’ve never said that this does not meet the minimum legal standards, that it’s not a fair trial. That this is a nonsense. She’s obviously not important enough yet.”
Dual Nationals taken hostage
Ratcliffe is upset that the UK government have previously centred on the fact that Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a dual national, forgetting that Iran does not allow its citizens to renounce their citizenship.
Indeed, the Iranian Regime is effectively taking dual nationals hostage in order to use them as political pawns.
One lawyer said that the number of dual nationals in Iranian jails could be as high as 40. This includes Karan Vafadari, an Iranian-American national belonging to the Zoroastrian faith, and his wife Afarin Neyssari. Kamal Foroughi, a British-Iranian businesswoman, who have been imprisoned in Iran since 2011, Ahmadreza Djalali, a scientist from Sweden, former UNICEF official, Iranian-American Baquer Namazi and his son, Siamak Namazi.
Ratcliffe said: “It seems to be that there are different motives at different times but broadly, Nazanin was part of a wave of people that were taken for what feels to me internal politics between different parts of the Iranian regime fighting with each other. There clearly is a phenomenon, it’s got a domestic policy aspect, it’s got a foreign policy aspect and it’s something that we’ve been pushing the UN special rapporteur to try and take up – you cannot hold people like this as a tool of foreign policy.”
Writing to her daughter
The couple’s daughter Gabriella, now three, remains trapped in Iran because the Regime also seized her British passport.
Earlier this month, on her third birthday, she was taken by her Iranian grandparents to visit her mother.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe wrote a letter to her daughter, according to Iran’s defenders of human rights centre, in which she recounted her favourite memories of her daughter and her regret that she is missing out on her daughter’s life.
She wrote: “Those sweet and beautiful days did not last long. Our trip to Iran last Norouz [the Iranian New Year], when you were 22 months, was one of no return. The past 14 months, my share of you is only the occasional hour in the visiting room at Evin prison. How young you are to be forced to go through such a horrible experience?”