Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Husband Says His Wife Has Been 'Mentally Scarred' By Iranian Imprisonment On Third Anniversary Of Her Arrest

On third anniversary of arrest, Richard Ratcliffe says wife still affected by gaslighting she received from interrogators.

The husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the charity worker imprisoned in Iran over spying charges she strenuously denies, has said his wife has been mentally scarred by her treatment on the third anniversary of her arrest.

Richard Ratcliffe told HuffPost UK about how his wife is still affected by the gaslighting she received at the hands of interrogators in the early days of her jailing.

The British-Iranian was told her husband had abandoned her, and Ratcliffe has heard the Iranian embassy recently told journalists at a private briefing that he does not want her back.

On April 3 2016, Nazanin was arrested with their infant daughter Gabriella at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini Airport as she prepared to board a plane back to the UK after visiting relatives.

The British-Iranian is serving a five-year sentence in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison after she was convicted of membership of an illegal group. The trial by a revolutionary court in Tehran was widely condemned as unfair and she denies the charges against her.

In an update to the petition on Tuesday, Ratcliffe said he had been told by UK journalists that embassy officials had said at a private briefing that his campaigning was actively trying to keep Nazanin in prison, that their marriage had broken down, and he didn’t want her back.

“I foolishly told Nazanin,” Ratcliffe wrote. “It brought back memories of the darkest days: Her interrogators’ gaslighting in those early months, insisting her husband had abandoned her.”

Ratcliffe told HuffPost UK his wife is still scarred by the early treatment she received and her mental health is still a worry for him.

“Sitting in a prison cell she can obviously get quite upset and things she hears she can dwell upon and worry about,” he said. “I don’t think she worries [about me] as much now she isn’t in solitary as we have much better access to more telephone calls.

“There is a way that our relationship has really been stress-tested by all this. Naturally if you spend this long apart, it will take a while to get back to each other’s rhythms again and also we’ve had different experiences these last few years.

“In some ways it is a shared experience, but in some ways it is different ends of the same experience. Having talked to other families who have come out the other side, it will take time to heal. Sometimes that plays on her mind and sometimes it plays on my mind.”


On Sunday, Ratcliffe and his family delivered a large mother’s day card to the Iranian embassy along with 155 bunches of flowers, one for each week she has been held.

He was able to speak to his wife later in the day and tell her about it, saying she had been touched by the gesture. She had just been visited in prison by her mother and daughter, who is now four and a half, was in fairly high spirits, Ratcliffe said.

The Iranian Ambassador later tweeted that the move was part of a “media war on Iran” and that Ratcliffe was in coalition with Amnesty International.

In response, Ratcliffe said: “I’m not interested in the government, I’m interested in my wife. There is nothing hidden here. I am trying to be annoying to both governments.”

He said the tensions between the two governments should not be his family’s problem.

“It is their problem and their fight. The only resource I have is to continue to say how unacceptable it is that she is held,” he said.

Last month, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt took the unusual step of granting Nazanin diplomatic protection, which means an injury to her is viewed as an injury to the British state.

Ratcliffe praised Hunt for the steps he has taken since taking over the role.

“He is handling it really personally I think,” Ratcliffe said. “He’s the third foreign secretary we have had and partly it’s because our case has just gone on much longer so it is right that more is done now than at the beginning. Now there isn’t any soft things left, so he has been doing much harder things.

“I think there is a personal care there. He has met Gabriella and my mother-in-law. He’s met my mother. He came to see a play about Nazanin. The play [by Howell Productions] is quite moving and I think anyone who has seen it understand’s our story in a different way to those who haven’t.”

Last year jokes were added to the tree in Fortune Green, West Hampstead to raise the spirits of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
Last year jokes were added to the tree in Fortune Green, West Hampstead to raise the spirits of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
PA Archive/PA Images

However, he said they were still waiting to see what impact the diplomatic protection would have.

“It’s unusual enough that it’s not quite clear to both sides what it means. We are waiting for Iran’s response and we will judge from that whether to be optimistic or pessimistic [about her release].”

To mark the anniversary of her arrest, Ratcliffe and the couple’s friends, families and supporters are gathering at a tree in West Hampstead near the couple’s home.

Supporters have this year been asked to write Haiku poems about what home means to them to hang from the tree.

“It felt important to remind her that there is still a home waiting and holding on for her and wanting her to hold on as well. Obviously she is pretty low sometimes because it has gone on so long.

“In some ways having really powerful people involved, like Jeremy Hunt, has been great but it hasn’t worked yet.

“She can have moments where she will think ‘will anything ever work?’. So for me I wanted to do something to remind her that there is still a home and we are still waiting for her.”

He said the campaign had received a couple of hundred messages within the first few hours of it being launched, which he said was very touching.

“You can forget there are lots of people out there caring and following our story,” he said.


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