Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has announced she’s going on hunger strike after being denied access to medical care. The British-Iranian national made the announcement yesterday in a joint letter from Tehran’s Evin prison alongside her fellow prisoner, human-rights activist Narges Mohammadi.
In the letter, they said that being denied medical care was “illegal, inhuman and unlawful”. The women have planned a three-day hunger strike, which will be extended if their demands are not met.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe is seeking medical access for lumps in her breasts, and neurological care over her neck pains and numbness in her arms and legs. She has also not been allowed to see an external psychiatrist, even though her treatment has been approved by a prison doctor. In August 2018, she collapsed in her cell after having a panic attack.
It has now been 1,006 days since Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested at Tehran’s airport in April 2016 on espionage charges.
In November, the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, appealed for Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release during a visit to Iran, protesting her innocence. Theresa May also requested her release in a meeting with Iranian president Hassan Rouhani back in September.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, recently said in a statement to The Guardian that Nazanin feels like she has no choice but to go on hunger strike. “I think she just feels enough is enough,” he said. Ratcliffe added that his wife’s mood was “very bleak” and felt “very worried and very low” when she discovered the lumps in her breast.
He expressed his concern about her planned hunger strike, saying, “For me, we’ve feared this day would come. It hasn’t quite come, and I hope it doesn’t come.”
Nazanin spent her 40th birthday – Boxing Day – in prison despite renewed calls for her release. Her husband said, “I think it was passing that milestone and feeling she’s never going to get out, and that she is going to be denied having another baby.” Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s four-year-old daughter, Gabriella, has been staying with family in Iran.
Ellie Kennedy, a campaigner at Amnesty International UK, said in a statement that it should never have come to this. “It’s shocking and unforgivable that the Iranian authorities can callously force prisoners of conscience into starving themselves in protest at their plight.
“The Iranian authorities are entirely responsible for pushing these two unfairly detained people to take such desperate measures.”