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Source: The Guardian

Nov 4, 2023

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has ‘constant worry’ about family in Iran

British-Iranian imprisoned in Iran for six years speaks of slow recovery from captivity and severance from her Iranian family

By Nadeem Badshah and agency

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has spoken of her “constant worry” about her family in Iran, saying she cannot return to the country where she was imprisoned for six years.

The British-Iranian also revealed how it had been “very hard to adjust” since returning to the UK in March 2022.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in 2016 in Tehran and accused of spying after working as a charity project manager.

She and her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, spoke about their ordeal, and the campaign for her release, in a session at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in Edinburgh.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe said: “When we gather with my friends I tell jokes about prison, which is strange because prison is a bad place, it is a very grim, bleak experience.

“But over time you forget the bad parts of it and you remember the jokes and the funny things.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori, a British Iranian who was also accused of spying, were both released from the control of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps last year. She was reunited with her husband and nine-year-old daughter, Gabriella.

The former charity worker added she had “underestimated how tough freedom would be” after being released.

She said: “I came out, I had to rebuild my relationship with our family, and with the neighbourhood and community and society.

“I am a different person, Richard has changed, my daughter is nine. When I left her she wasn’t even two, so we are very different people.”

She added: “I was hoping I would be in a better place in terms of recovery, but with what is happening in Iran and the Middle East … there are a lot of external factors that stop me from feeling like a normal person and getting on with my life.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe said that “at the moment there is no return” for her to Iran, where she still has family.

The former journalist added: “My family is still in Iran, given what is happening in Iran … things are much more complicated. There’s very little we can do in terms of talking, video calls and things. I can’t really talk to them at all. It is a constant worry about my country, my family, my parents, my friends.”

Ratcliffe, who went on hunger strike twice as part of the campaign for his wife’s release, told the conference there should be a “right to consular protection” for British citizens who get into trouble overseas.

He said: “Currently there is no right to consular protection, you as a British citizen have no rights to be protected by your government. It is at the discretion of the minister, the discretion of the crown.

“Which means it is unfair. If you are noisy enough, difficult enough, you will get noticed and you will get protected. If you don’t have that … you could be marginalised.”

Last December, Zaghari-Ratcliffe spoke about spending months in solitary confinement at Evin prison and how she was granted access to a TV with two channels – one showing Iranian soaps, the other Wimbledon tennis matches.

She spoke of her joy at watching Andy Murray win his second Wimbledon title on Centre Court and met the tennis player when she was guest editor of Radio 4’s Today programme.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe told Murray: “I was always a big fan of you, but also there I was in solitary confinement watching the match that you actually won in the end. I can’t tell you how joyful it was and I was ecstatic just to see you win.”

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