British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been imprisoned in Tehran for almost three years, began a hunger strike this week. Here’s what Stylist readers can do to support her.
On 17 March 2016, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe flew to Iran to visit her elderly parents. A project manager for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was raised in Tehran, but has dual citizenship with the UK, where she married and gave birth to a daughter, Gabriella.
Gabriella, then 22 months old, accompanied her mother on the trip to Iran, while Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s English husband remained at their family home in north London. He thought he would see his wife and young daughter again in a fortnight.
But when Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Gabriella attempted to fly home to London at the start of April, their lives changed forever. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard arrested Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and took her to a Tehran jail. Gabriella was placed into the care of her grandparents, and wouldn’t come face-to-face with her mother again for over two years. She has not seen her father since.
It has now been almost three years since Zaghari-Ratcliffe was jailed in Iran. She was sentenced to five years in prison in September 2016 on vague charges of plotting against the Iranian regime, something she has always denied.
Amnesty International says Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s imprisonment may be based on the fact that she once worked for the BBC World Service Trust. Now known as BBC Media Action, the international charity has provided training for Iranian journalists and bloggers perceived as being critical of their country’s regime.
It doesn’t matter that BBC Media Action has said that Zaghari-Ratcliffe only worked there for 18 months in a junior role, and was never involved in training Iranian journalists. Her connection to the organisation has been enough to see her accused of helping to incite rebellion in Iran.
The situation was not helped by Boris Johnson, who – in one of his most catastrophic blunders as foreign secretary – mistakenly described her as a journalism teacher. His statement was later used as evidence against her.
Now, Zaghari-Ratcliffe and fellow female prisoner, Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi, have embarked on a hunger strike. Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard says she decided to stage the protest after Iranian officers tried to pressure her into spying for Iran against the UK.
“She was told it would be safer for her and safer for her family afterwards if she agreed to do this,” he told a press conference on 14 January. “She felt she’d been warned that spying was only way she’d get out. She had been terrified ever since.”
For the vast majority of us, Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s situation is unthinkable. To be separated from one’s family, denied vital medical treatment and imprisoned for years on end, facing charges of which you are innocent, is the stuff of nightmares – but her family and supporters have refused to give up hope that she will be released.
Below, we’ve rounded up three ways that you can support the #FreeNazanin campaign.
1) Write to your MP and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt
Hunt has been praised by Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family for doing more to help her cause than his predecessor Boris Johnson, but it’s still important to remind him how many people care about her fate. You can contact the foreign secretary via email at email@example.com.
Alternatively, write to your MP and ask them to raise Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Gabriella’s situation with Hunt and the prime minister. Find out how to contact your MP easily via writetothem.com.
2) Donate to charities supporting Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s cause
While it’s not possible to donate specifically to Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s cause, any contributions you make will help their essential work helping victims of human rights abuses in Iran and around the world.
3) Sign the petitions
Amnesty International’s petition calls on Iran’s three most powerful figures – the country’s Supreme Leader, the head of the judiciary and the president – to free Zaghari-Ratcliffe “immediately”. It also demands that she is granted access to her daughter, British consular assistance and medical care. Sign it here.
Richard Ratcliffe has his own petition on change.org, calling on Prime Minister Theresa May to do more to return his wife and daughter to the UK. Once you’ve signed these petitions, make sure to share them on social media to raise awareness of Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s cause.
For more ways to help get Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Gabriella back to the UK, visit freenazanin.com.
Images: Getty / Free Nazanin