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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Jailed charity worker has long fought for freedom

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has had her British passport returned (Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe/PA)
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has had her British passport returned (Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe/PA)

Hopes have been raised that detained British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe could soon return home to her husband and child after having her British passport returned.

The charity worker, of Hampstead, north-west London, has been detained in Iran since her arrest in 2016 on charges, which she denies, of plotting to overthrow the Tehran government, having been arrested during a holiday visit for to show her baby daughter Gabriella to her parents.

The dual national has always insisted she was not working for Thomson Reuters Foundation in Iran at the time of her arrest, but was visiting the country so Gabriella could meet her grandparents.

According to her family, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was told by Iranian authorities that she was being detained because of the UK’s failure to pay an outstanding £400 million debt to Iran.

During her detention, family and friends in the UK have long fought for her freedom.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe detained
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her daughter Gabriella in 2018 (Free Nazanin campaign/PA)

In March 2020, she was freed from jail due to the coronavirus pandemic and kept under house arrest. Hopes of her being granted clemency were later dashed and in April last year she was given an additional one-year jail term and banned from leaving Iran for a year.

Her lawyer Hojjat Kermani said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe received the second jail sentence on a charge of spreading “propaganda against the system” for participating in a protest in front of the Iranian Embassy in London in 2009. She lost an appeal against that sentence in October.

The mother-of-one has scarcely seen her daughter throughout her ordeal. After three years with her grandparents, Gabriella, then aged five, was allowed to return to her father in the UK in October 2019, however, during Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s furlough from prison, the family would speak on video chat for four or five hours a day.

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe previously told the PA news agency that before his wife’s detention, she was “really, really proud” of Iran.

“The Iran she knew and she loved is not the Iran that has treated her this way. That is one of the hardest things,” he said.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was born and raised in Tehran and studied English literature at the capital’s university, before becoming an English teacher.

Following a devastating earthquake in Iran in 2003, she went to work as a translator in the relief effort for the Japanese International Co-operation Agency.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe detained
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and their daughter Gabriella (Family Handout/PA)

She then went on to work for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, before moving to the World Health Organisation as a communications officer.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe came to the UK in 2007 after securing a scholarship at London Metropolitan University to study for a masters in communication management.

It was a month after her arrival in the UK that she met her future husband through mutual friends.

Describing their first date, Mr Ratcliffe said they “clicked” and he felt like he had “come home”.

The couple got married in August 2009 in Winchester and their daughter Gabriella, was born in June 2014, something Mr Ratcliffe said changed both their outlooks on life.

“It was very important for Nazanin to keep going back to Iran to show her daughter to her parents… before she would always go once a year, but she tried to go twice after,” he said.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe began working at Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2011 as a project co-ordinator before taking on the role of a project manager.

Mr Ratcliffe described his wife as very house-proud, meticulous and tidy, and said she has a “pretty keen sense of justice”, and is “outraged” by what has happened to her and her daughter.

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