Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband tells daughter, 7, he’s on hunger strike ‘for mum’

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband tells daughter, 7, he’s on hunger strike ‘for mum’

The rain soaks Gabriella Ratcliffe as she points out the colourful pebbles she has painted to brighten the damp pavement her father’s tent is pitched on outside the Foreign Office.

It is half-term for the seven-year-old, but this drab Westminster street close to Downing Street is where she will spend most of it. She’ll even come and carve pumpkins here with her daddy before her auntie whisks her home, leaving Richard Ratcliffe behind in the cold.

On Sunday, the husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe began a second hunger strike, camping on the government’s doorstep in a bid to force them to take tougher action to bring his wife home.

His first, in 2019, lasting for 15 days, was outside the Iranian embassy, yet following five years of unlawful detention in Iran, Nazanin still remains captive in her parents’ home in Tehran, despite the end of her sentence. A new one-year sentence was imposed this spring and she has recently been informed her appeal against it has failed.

Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested on spying charges in Tehran as she visited family with Gabriella in 2016
(
REUTERS)

“She is one phone call away from returning to prison. This is all we had left,” Richard admits, looking drained in the downpour.

He doesn’t commit to how long he plans to continue.

“We will see how it goes, but this needs to be done properly, there is no point in it being a flippant gesture,” he explains.

“A few weeks ago Nazanin wasn’t in favour of it; it was different after the sentence was passed.

“But she is worried about me, and Gabriella.

Richard with his daughter Gabriella

“There will come a point where we will not want Gabriella to be here, as I get weaker and less lucid.

“But for now I have told her I’m going camping and I’m not going to be eating, and it is to get Boris Johnson to get Mummy back.”

As Gabriella, who remains at home with her uncle, playfights with her cousin and pleads restlessly for her auntie to take them to the “M&Ms shop”, Richard can only watch and sip water.

He last ate at breakfast time on Sunday morning, and barely slept last night in the biting cold, woken by police in the early hours who didn’t know who he was.

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Nazanin was arrested on spying charges in Tehran as she visited family with Gabriella in 2016.

After four years in Evin prison and a year under house arrest at her parents’ home, the family hoped she would finally re-join Richard and Gabriella in London this year, until new charges of propaganda were brought.

Richard says he wants four actions from the government. Nazanin and others recognised as hostages; punish Iranian officials responsible for Nazanin’s imprisonment through sanctions or by taking Iran to court; and a commitment to making an end to hostage-taking part of the nuclear negotiations with Iran.

He also wants them to pay the outstanding £400million arms debt Britain owes Iran, which has been linked to Nazanin’s case.

Richard’s frustration reached breaking point when new Foreign Secretary Liz Truss gave no sign of clear action and even suggested he liaise with a junior minister.

He says: “I thought, if you’re not going to do anything, we need to. I’m looking for the government to engage. I’m not looking for words, but actions.”

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