Richard Ratcliffe has started a hunger strike outside the Iranian Embassy in London in solidarity with his striking wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has spent more than a 1000 day in an Iranian prison.
Ratcliffe started his hunger strike on Saturday 15 June and says he will go on as long as he can. His wife is a British-Iranian dual citizen who has been detained in Iran since 3 April 2016 on political charges. Negotiations between Iran and the United Kingdom have not yet lead to her release and many believe she is being kept as a diplomatic hostage by Iran.
Richard Ratcliffe in an interview with Zamaneh explains that his wife is on hunger strike to protest the fact that she is being unlawfully kept in prison apart from her daughter, Gabriella: “Nazanin had warned the prison authorities that she would go on hunger strike after Gabriella’s birthday if they did not find a way to solve her case, and Gabriella spent another birthday separated from her parents.”
Richard Ratcliffe is concerned that the suffering of his wife is happening behind bars in an Iranian prison with no one to witnesses such suffering; it is as such that he has decided to join his wife by refusing food.
“I promised myself that if she went on hunger strike again, I would not leave her alone, but would also join in. And I would do it in front of the Iranian Embassy in public so that her suffering was not silenced.” Ratcliffe added.
In January 2019, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe went on a three-day hunger strike to protest against being denied medical care in prison.
“I spoke to Nazanin this morning – she said she was feeling weak and had been to the prison clinic for low blood pressure. She said the other prisoners had been looking after her. Narges Mohammadi had called Nazanin’s mother to say that they would look after her.” Richard Ratcliffe told to Zamaneh.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who worked for the Thomson Reuters Foundation was sentenced to five years imprisonment in 2016. She has been accused of plotting against the Islamic Republic of Iran. She has denied all charges against her.he was arrested three years ago when attempting to return from Iran to the UK after a family visit. She has been separated from Gabriella, her four-year-old daughter. During her time in jail, her young daughter has not been allowed to leave Iran to return to her father in the UK.
“I spoke to Gabriella yesterday – and showed her the tent, and promised her we would go camping in it together when all this is over. Nazanin also told her yesterday that she had started the strike – which confused her – but Nazanin promised it would soon be over.” Ratcliffe said.
Nazanin’s husbands said during the three years his wife has been imprisoned, he had never received any information or response from Iranian diplomats based in London. The same goes for the current hunger strike that is being staged in front of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Embassy in London.
“No contact from Iranian officials. On day one, they called the police on us a couple of times. On day two the Ambassador complained inaccurately about us on social media. Today they erected some fencing around our tent and chairs. But they have not spoken to us. In the three years since Nazanin was first unfairly taken, no Iranian diplomat has ever agreed to meet with me. That remains shameful.” He told Zamaneh about the reaction of Iranian officials to his hunger strike outside the Islamic Republic embassy in London.
The United Kingdom has called for Nazanin’s release, and she was given diplomatic protection on 7th of March to assist in early release from prison. Iran had rejected Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic status and does not recognize the UK’s decision to grant diplomatic protection to her. Furthermore, the Islamic Republic of Iran has refused to acknowledge the British citizenship of the British-Iranian dual citizen.
Zamaneh asked Mr. Ratcliffe if the recent tensions with Iran might have any effect on Nazanin’s case. “Potentially – but I think things are very difficult to read. I think it is important for us to keep a straight path. And to keep our demands clear and consistent – Nazanin needs to come home.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family and the British government insists that the charges are political and that Nazanin is innocent and should be released. “When Jeremy Hunt made his announcement about granting Nazanin diplomatic protection he gave a number of reasons, including the fact that she is innocent, and that she is being held as diplomatic leverage.”
The foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, asserted that granting diplomatic protection might not lead to Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s immediate release.
“It’s not a magic wand, it’s not going to solve things overnight, but it does create a different legal and political context and it sends a very strong message to Iran: you are a great civilization, you may have disagreements with the UK, but at the heart of this is an innocent woman, vulnerable, unwell and scared, and she has a four-year-old daughter.” Jeremy Hunt said.
Recently Nazar Zaka, a Lebanese man who is also a permanent U.S. resident was released after nearly a four-year imprisonment in Iran. Richard Ratcliffe believes Zaka’s release is a positive sign.
“I think it is a positive sign. And I thought Nazar Zaka was very impressive in his interviews making clear that other people should not be left behind. Other countries should make clear that Iran’s hostage diplomacy needs to stop.” Richard told Zamaneh
Iran has arrested a number of foreign and dual nationals over the last four decades. In a recent report from Javaid Rehman, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Iran, Tehran’s ongoing detention of foreign and dual nationals has been identified as a problem.