In April 2016, my sister-in-law Nazanin Ratcliffe returned to Iran, her country of birth, with her daughter Gabriella, to spend time with family, as she had done many times since moving to the UK and marrying my brother-in-law Richard. At the end of their holiday, Nazanin was arrested, while Gabriella was left stranded without her parents, her passport taken. Nazanin endured weeks of solitary confinement, which left her very ill. For months, no word was heard of why she was detained. Later, statements in Iranian media suggested she was seen as a national security threat. This ridiculous claim levelled at a young mother and charity worker, whose organisation is not active in Iran, is typical of accusations against numerous dual- nationals who have suffered arbitrary detention in Iran. Some have been released in circumstances suggesting that diplomatic deals have been instrumental and that Iran is taking political hostages.
Nazanin only saw her lawyer days before she eventually had a closed trial, on secret charges, and was sentenced to five years in jail. More recently, she appeared in an appeals court, the last legal opportunity to challenge her sentence, and the verdict is still awaited.
The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights has robustly condemned Nazanin’s treatment and her trial. The British government, in contrast, has refused to condemn Iran’s actions, merely expressing ‘concern’ to the Iranian government. Family in Iran were given a message that the Revolutionary Guard wanted Richard to tell the British government that if they did ‘the deal’, Nazanin would be released. If the foreign office knows what this means, it does not feel able to tell our family. We are left to second guess. Meanwhile, Nazanin’s condition gets more desperate. She has been on hunger strike and expressed suicidal thoughts.
There are many ways you can help to support Nazanin and keep pressure on the British and Iranian governments, including Amnesty’s Write for Rights campaign (www.amnesty.org.uk/write- rights-2016). Please also see www.freenazanin.com and the Free Nazanin community Facebook page for updates and new ways to support our campaign until Nazanin and Gabriella are safely back home where they belong.