Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with husband Richard Ratcliffe
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with husband Richard Ratcliffe and baby Gabriella (Photo: Facebook, Free Nazanin)

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“I’ve been shouting for 587 days for the government to bring Nazanin home”

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, has been campaigning for her release ever since she was imprisoned in Iran. He tells The Pool how it feels to finally have made front-page news

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By Richard Ratcliffe on

The craziness that has been our story so far – in some ways nothing surprises me but, this week, the stakes have risen. Sometimes it’s felt like I’ve been shouting at the wall, trying to tell our story. Why isn’t this on the front page? It’s a terrible story. And, of course, now we are on the front pages. Suddenly, the newspapers are calling me up every few hours for updates. Now, it’s a different scale – and a different scale politically. Now, Nazanin matters – which is a good thing for Nazanin, but it’s intimidating, spending your whole day fielding questions – questions like “What’s the future for the foreign secretary?”, which genuinely feels beyond my pay grade.

People keep asking me why I’m not more angry. Well, I’m not, because we’ve got to get through this. You need to feel safe enough to be angry. These are really high stakes and my focus is on the UK government to bring Nazanin home, not the wider political storm. I am angry that this has taken 587 days today. I’m angry about the fact that it took as long as it did to feel like this is an important issue. I think there has been a complacency, perhaps, in acknowledging the error of Boris Johnson’s statement and the significance of that. There was an attempt to downplay it – Liam Fox called it “a slip of the tongue”. It really is a bigger deal than that.

Nazanin with Gabriella
 

The last time I spoke to Nazanin was last Tuesday. She was very cross with me! She’d borrowed a mobile phone to call me, but I was on the Today programme, so I couldn’t answer. “You’re talking about me, but you’re not talking to me,” she said. It was actually nice that we had that normality. “Why is God doing this to me?” is often the phrase Nazanin uses. She gets angry at the injustice and the complacency – how could this happen and still be happening. No one can stop it – and no one who can stop it is stopping it.

Gabriella sees Mummy on TV quite a lot now. She’s aware that people are sad and she’s very attuned to everyone’s emotions – particularly with her grandmother and mother. She doesn’t understand the substance of what’s happening, but she understands the mood of it. She remembers when Nazanin was in solitary confinement. “Remember, Mummy, when you were in that other place?” she says. “Shall we go back there?” She thinks Mummy and Daddy are both in prison.

Nazanin gets angry at the injustice and the complacency – how could this happen and still be happening. No one can stop it – and no one who can stop it is stopping it

Gabriella can’t remember London, but she likes the idea of London. She likes that she’s got a bedroom here and she’ll ask her mum what’s in it. In Iran, they call her “Gisou”, her middle name, which in Farsi means “long hair” – but she knows she’s Gabriella Ratcliffe. The hard part was her losing her English – quite naturally, she adapted to her new environment. She stopped turning to her mummy and daddy, and she started turning to Granny and Grandad, uncles and aunts to look after her. Realising this – that she misses me less – the connection that was there before had to be reaffirmed in a different way.

Being a campaigning dad is its own thing, but it’s for them, not with them. Being a real dad and husband is important. This week, I’ve barely spoken to Gabriella because, by the time I’ve finished my media work, it’s too late in Iran, because they’re three hours ahead. As she gets older, she’s more aware that her life isn’t normal and, as time passes, it will be more of a rebuild of our lives together.

When Gabriella visits Nazanin, they draw pictures of our house in London. They imagine what their life will be like when they get home.

Help get Nazanin home – by signing the petition via Amnesty International UK - here.

@FreeNazanin

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with husband Richard Ratcliffe and baby Gabriella (Photo: Facebook, Free Nazanin)
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Boris Johnson
Women in Prisons
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