Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, What Can We Do?

You may or may not have heard of this British Iranian mother. She is at the centre of a row which crosses continents, cultures, religions and twenty first century reality of freedom. 

Nazanin has been jailed in Iran on ‘secret’ charges according to her husband Richard Ratcliffe and has been reported worldwide.

She was initially arrested in April 2016 at Tehran airport after visiting her family and was sentenced in September of this year to five years imprisonment. The charity working who is being supported by the likes of the Foreign Office and Amnesty International has made several emotional phone calls to her husband saying she cant take the prison any more. Her two year old daughter Gabriella only understands that neither her mummy or daddy is with her as she is still at her grandparents in Tehran and has been for nearly a quarter of her young life. Nazanin is terrified that her young daughter will forget her and Richard and is without both of them.

The Iranian revolutionary guard who were behind her arrest claimed the work she did for the charity, The Thomas Reuters Foundation, helping to train journalists and human rights activists made her a part of a network set up to undermine the Iranian government. She is currently being held at the infamous Evin high security prison which has a history of torture and executions. Neither Nazanin or her lawyer have officially been told what she has been charged with.

Her husband Richard had kept quiet about her conviction in the hope that the Foreign Office would be able to exert enough pressure on the Iranian government to release her, it didn’t. There is now a working international campaign to get her released including a petition of more than a million signatures. Unfortunately this huge media coverage may have backfired as the judge who sentenced her used it as proof of her negative influence and guilt.

It also appears that Nazanin may be an innocent pawn in an internal battle between hardliners and moderates who are battling for ideological and political control of Iran. Some believe that western prisoners will at some point be worthwhile bargaining chips.

Kathy Voss, Amnesty International UK’s individuals at risk campaign manager, said: “Iran’s revolutionary courts are notorious for handing down prison sentences after grossly unfair trials. From all the reports we’ve seen, Nazanin’s case has been a complete travesty of justice throughout – beginning with her protracted secret detention, then the unsupported accusations from officials, and culminating in this week’s out-of-the-blue sentence.” Reported the Guardian.

In Europe we frequently get our justice system wrong, it makes mistakes but they are usually by error and not by design. We complain about justice and prison conditions, all of which of course could and should be improved. But it takes an amoral dictatorial stance to deliberately lock up a charity worker, mother and innocent for political expediency. To deprive a young child her mother, her husband a wife a father his daughter and an innocent woman her life is at any level shameful.

In a prison where thousands have gone in and have never been heard of again Nazanin is truly in peril. Her husband Richard is keeping her image and story a worldwide concern whilst trying desperately to remain positive.

Nazanin receives messages of support and friendship from around the world through organisations like Amnesty International, allowing her to at least know that many hundreds of thousands are thinking of her and that at least at some level in her solitary confinement, she is not totally alone.

Lets hope the world listens to her cry’s and the powers that are able to show clemency if not common sense, send her and little Gabriella home soon.

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