Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe on the “tough” journey back home following six “cruel” years of detention in Iran

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe on the “tough” journey back home following six “cruel” years of detention in Iran

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe spoke publicly for the first time last night since being released from Iranian detention on Thursday.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has spoken publicly for the first time since she returned to the UK after being detained in Iran for six years. At a press conference held yesterday by Labour MP Tulip Siddiq, she spoke of the “cruelty” of her imprisonment and the “catching up” she has to do with her daughter after the family were reunited on Thursday.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested on spying charges while visiting her parents in Iran, with her then two-year-old daughter, Gabriella, in April 2016. Her release came after the UK government paid a £400 million debt to Iran dating back to the 1970s, although both governments have said the two issues should not be linked.

Speaking to the media in Westminster, Zaghari-Ratcliffe thanked all those who had worked to get her released, paying tribute to her “amazing, wonderful” husband, Richard Ratcliffe, who she said had campaigned tirelessly.

“Over the past six years, it has been cruel, what happened to me,” she said.

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While she declined to answer the majority of questions about what it was like in solitary confinement or her time in prison, she shared that her experiences will “always haunt” her.

“There is no other way around it. It will be with me,” she told the audience. “It is never going to leave you alone. But I think at the moment I would rather just focus on the moments of coming back.” Instead, she said that she was looking forward to taking her daughter on the school run and getting to know her friends.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family attend a press conference in Westminster on Monday 21 March
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her family attend a press conference in Westminster on Monday 21 March

When asked if she was angry it took so long to secure her release, Zaghari-Ratcliffe replied: “I always felt like I was holding this black hole in my heart all these years, but I’m just going to leave that black hole on the plane when it lands.”

She described the journey back to the UK as “tough” and criticised the foreign secretaries who attempted to secure her release, even publicly disagreeing with her husband when he thanked them.

“I grant what Richard said to thank the foreign secretary, I do not really agree with him on that level,” she said. “I have seen five foreign secretaries changed over the course of six years. That is unprecedented given the politics of the UK.”

She continued: “I was told many, many times that ‘Oh, we’re going to get you home.’ That never happened. So there was a time that I felt like, you know what, I’m not going to trust you because I’ve been told many, many times that I’m going to be taken home.

“But that never happened. I mean, how many foreign secretaries does it take for someone to come out? Five. It should have been one.”

“What happened now should have happened six years ago.”

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Zaghari-Ratcliffe also called for an end to the detention of other dual nationals still held in Iran, saying without their release “the meaning of freedom is never going to be complete”. Speaking of Morad Tahbaz, a British-born wildlife conservationist who remains detained in Iran, she said: “He should have been on the same flight as us.”

“I don’t think anybody’s life should be linked to a global kind of agreement, whatever that is, whether it’s nuclear, whether it’s environment or whatever,” she said.

“Every human being has got the right to be free.”

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