Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe And Her Continued Struggle For Freedom

At the beginning of this week, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was transferred to the psychiatric ward of a hospital in Tehran. She was transferred from Evin prison to Imam Khomeini hospital – as reported by Al Jazeera. The campaign ‘Free Nazanin’, which is led by her husband Richard Ratcliffe released a statement which read, “it is unknown how long Nazanin is expected to be in the psychiatric ward. It is not clear what kind of medical treatment will be provided […].” Nazanin, a British-Iranian charity worker was arrested on 3 April 2016 whilst visiting family with her young daughter. The Iranian government accused her of plotting against them and sentenced her to five years in prison. She has remained unyielding in the maintaining of her innocence.

Last month Nazanin completed a 15-day hunger strike in protest of her detention, with her husband also not eating for the same period in solidarity, as he camped outside the Iranian Embassy in London. Although Mr. Ratcliffe hopes his wife’s move to the hospital is to ensure “[…] she is getting treatment and care […]”, he adds that “it is unnerving when we don’t know what is going on […],”- as reported by the Independent. Additionally, he spoke to BBC Radio 4’s Today program, and said that although he immediately felt “euphoric” when he first heard his wife had been moved, he has grown increasingly concerned on whether “[…] they are isolating her again to squeeze her […]?” This suggests that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard may be putting pressure on her to sign denouncements, instead of being a prelude in receiving treatment or even her release.

As reported by the Independent, Ellie Kennedy a risk campaigner at Amnesty International U.K. said, “yet again, the fear must be that Iranian authorities are playing games with Nazanin’s health and well-being. The fact that this has been done without her families involvement suggests the real motive may be more to do with exerting pressure on Britain, rather than providing Nazanin with treatment.”

Mr. Ratcliffe has said that he would be “[…] lobbying the new prime minister to take personal responsibility for the case.” One man, Boris Johnson, who is the Tory leadership hopeful, faced criticism back in 2017 when he was the U.K.’s Foreign Secretary, as he said that Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists – as reported by the BBC. He later apologized and said he had “no doubt” that she was on holiday visiting family. However, these careless words from a man vying for the role of Prime Minister, have been detrimental and have been used against Nazanin. Jeremy Hunt, Johnson’s successor as foreign secretary and his competition for PM, said “[…] he would do everything he could to bring Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe home,” as he said he would grant her diplomatic protection in a bid to resolve her case – reported by the BBC. However, will their words be followed up with progressive action?

Iran still refuses to recognize dual nationals; therefore, the U.K. government need to apply more arduous pressure on the Iranian government to ensure her safe release transpires. It must be made priority and a basic duty of Government to ensure that people are not unfairly imprisoned, in order to uphold all peoples right to life. No durable development would be witnessed without the promotion of social progress, and the advancement of our fundamental, basic human rights would not be achieved without learning from past mistakes and shaping legislations from these profound lessons learnt. Mistakes made when Boris Johnson was Foreign Secretary for example, need revising if and or when he becomes PM to ensure he is advancing his policies towards greater freedom, peace, and justice. Nazanin at the very least deserves this. Nazanin who speaks publicly via her husband said that “[…] prison is getting harder and harder. I hate being played in the middle of a political game. I just hate it […]” – reported by the BBC. Johnson and Hunt cannot use the situation of Nazanin to cloak themselves in the guise of greater freedom and equality to win an election. They must understand that when they proclaim the support of Nazanin’s safe release, they must do so with urgency, using their political power for good and to assert change. Nazanin’s life depends on it, and three years since her arrest, time is even more precious.

Katie Clarke