An article by Kathy Goodchild
I spent last Thursday in a way I had never done before – sitting on a very small stool outside the Iranian embassy in London, helping make posters in aid of hunger striker, Richard Ratcliffe.
So who is Richard Ratcliffe? Most of you will know, but, for those who don’t, Richard is the husband of Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian national, imprisoned in Iran on charges of spying, demonstrably false, but given credence by the former British Foreign Secretary who erroneously claimed that she was in Iran to ‘train journalists’.
Nazanin had travelled to Iran with her two year old daughter Gabriella in 2016 simply to visit her parents. Since then she has been held in prison, a considerable portion of it in solitary confinement, and subjected to psychological torture and harassment, not to mention being deprived of necessary medical investigations. When, last Saturday, Richard received a phone call from her saying that she was beginning another hunger strike (she would drink water), he decided to act in solidarity with her, something he had voluntarily promised her after the last time she attempted such a drastic measure.
So what is the aim of Richard’s brave and desperate action? Principally to force Nazanin’s case back into the headlines and challenge the Iranian authorities, as well as the British, who appear to have done remarkably little over the last three years to aid their citizens imprisoned in Iran (there are several, mostly of British-Iranian dual nationality).
The Iranians were certainly needled; at the beginning of the week they erected huge corrugated barriers in front of their own embassy doorway, then claimed that Richard was blocking their entrance! (In fact, they shot themselves in the foot with this tactic, as the barriers made a terrific ‘notice board’ for the posters, and for the hundreds of brightly coloured ‘post-its’ bearing messages of support for Richard and Nazanin.) Building work was apparently necessary too when Richard first arrived on the scene; railings had to be subjected to the ministrations of an electric sander…at least when Richard was being interviewed.
As for the British government: well, when I was there, the focus was on making and displaying eye catching posters giving messages to the individual candidates for our new PM. Did any of these hopefuls turn up, either then or subsequently? A resounding ‘no’ as far as I’m aware. But a considerable number of MPs did come, and have continued to come, and they are of course the ones who are deeply interested and concerned.
There are many ways to help Richard and Nazanin, even if you can’t get to the embassy pavement. You can connect with them in a personal way, by sending messages of support to Richard at ‘The Tent outside the Iranian Embassy, London’. These will most certainly get there, and even if the strike has ended by the time your card is in the post, it’s a safe bet that they will be delivered to his address in Hampstead.
In a more formal way, it really does help to contact your MP, raising your concerns about this family, and it’s also a good idea to write to The Iranian Ambassador, The Iranian Embassy, 16, Princes Gate, London, SW7 1PT. Furthermore, If you haven’t already done so, please sign the petition at https://www.amnesty.org.uk.
All these actions, although small in themselves, contribute to what needs to be a relentless and unstoppable campaign to free Nazanin. Once she is freed, then the hope has to be that the other British citizens imprisoned in Iran have a better chance of freedom, not to mention the Iranian political prisoners, the human rights campaigners and lawyers, some of whom are languishing under draconian sentences.
Image credit: Free Nazanin Campaign