Nazanin Zahgari-Ratcliffe and her husband recently ended their hunger strike to protest her imprisonment for espionage in Iran.
Richard Ratcliffe is in London, and his wife Nazanin Zahgari-Ratcliffe is in prison in Iran.
Since Saturday 15 June, Mr Ratcliffe has been staging a constant presence outside the Iranian embassy in the Kensington area in protest at the ongoing detention of his wife, a British charity worker who is unfairly jailed in Iran and is herself on hunger strike.
Nazanin was initially detained in Tehran, Iran in 2016 while working for the charity arm of Thomson Reuters and accused of conspiring to topple the Iranian government.
When I spoke to Richard on Friday 28th June, he looked fatigued, and I asked how he was feeling since the last time I talked to him last week.
“I am getting weaker and slower. I have less energy. I feel the cold more.”
His words were very sad to hear.
On the pavement outside the embassy, there were bouquets, mainly from people coming to support him, “Free Nazanin” signs, candles and three tents in which he, friends and members of his family spend the nights.
Metal barriers were erected by the embassy and messages of hope and post-its have been placed on them with messages from well-wishers, friends and family.
Several British MPs and the Speaker of Parliament John Bercow have come out in support of Ratcliffe.
I spoke to Richard’s brother in law, Lim Jones who was standing outside. He told me “this is an act of desperation because of Nazanin’s hunger strike. Richard is doing it in an act of solidarity.”
He also told me “Richard is weaker and is getting cold when it is hot in the daytime. As soon as Nazanin stops, he will stop. As soon as Richard stops his hunger strike, we will have to take him to hospital for a check-up and get his blood checked.”
The Iranian-British dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is serving a five-year prison sentence for espionage.
In 2017, Boris Johnson, who was British Foreign Secretary at the time, aggravated Nazanin’s situation by stating that she was in Iran to teach journalism.
However, she never did that. Boris Johnson did not read his files. He acknowledged his mistake, but Iranian officials used his statements as evidence that she had engaged in “propaganda against the regime." Ratcliffe has demanded that Boris Johnson take responsibility for his words.
His successor, Jeremy Hunt, took the situation more seriously. He met Richard several times, increased requests for her release and placed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe under diplomatic protection, but without effect.
“One of these men, potentially Boris Johnson could be our new prime minister," said Lim Jones.
His brother in law told me that he or his wife Rebecca (Richard’s sister) would take turns spending the night in a tent near Richard Ratcliffe.
I think Richard is a hero. We must admire him. He never gave up and defied the Iranian regime. British politicians who came and saw him every day should be applauded, but the government has not done enough to support him.
This Saturday 29th June 2019, Richard Ratcliffe ended his 15-day hunger strike in front of the Iranian embassy in London opposite Hyde Park.
His wife Nazanin did the same in Iran.
We hope he will recover and get better.