What has Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe done since her release from Iran?

The former inmate of Evin prison has picked up a Woman of the Year award and held tough conversations with the UK government

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe went being from an ordinary wife and mother living in London to a household name in 2016 when she was detained in Iran while on a visit to see her family.

Separated from her daughter Gabriella, a toddler at the time, and subjected to vigorous interrogations by authorities, the UK-Iranian was later sentenced to five years in prison for allegedly plotting to overthrow the regime.

She has always denied the charge.

In March of this year the now 44-year-old was released by Iran along with another British-Iranian hostage, Anoosheh Ashoori.

The breakthrough came after the UK settled a £400 million ($482 million) debt with the isolated nation, dating back to the 1970s. Both governments denied a link between the historic arrears and the release of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

So what has she done in the nine months since being reunited with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and young daughter?

Criticism of UK government

In her first interview with reporters days after she touched down in the UK, the former aid worker did not offer any credit to the UK government. Instead, she said the repeated assurances from London that her release was imminent led to her losing trust in the government.

She also questioned why four foreign secretaries had failed to secure her release. Liz Truss, the fifth person to hold the position during Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s detention, agreed to settle Iran's 40-year-old claim in relation to a cancelled order for a British Chieftain tank.

“How many foreign secretaries does it take for someone to come home? Five?” she said at a press conference in London shortly after returning to the UK. “It should have been one of them eventually. So now here we are. What’s happened now should have happened six years ago.”

She also accused the UK Foreign Office of being complicit in forcing her to sign a letter of false confession to the Iranian government as part of the last-minute terms of her release. Amanda Milling, who was the UK’s Middle East minister at the time, said she was not forced to sign a confession, but instead advised that the Iranians would not allow her to leave unless she agreed.

Strained meeting with fomer prime minister

The former prisoner, her husband and daughter met Boris Johnson, the prime minister at the time, at No 10 Downing Street in May.

Mr Ratcliffe said Mr Johnson failed to apologise “explicitly” to his long-suffering wife after she told him about the “massive impact” his false claim had on her detention.

Mr Johnson, known for making gaffes in public, was lambasted by Mr Ratcliffe in 2017 for wrongly claiming his wife had been training journalists in Iran at the time of her arrest.

The claim was seized on by Iran as evidence to back up its narrative that the mother-of-one was involved in a plan to overthrow the regime.

Speaking on the steps of Downing Street, Mr Ratcliffe told of how his wife laid bare the immense impact Mr Johnson’s words had on her situation.

Asked if the prime minister had apologised, Mr Ratcliffe responded: “Not explicitly.”

Hair cut in solidarity with protesters

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has pledged to continue fighting for the freedoms of Iranians following her ordeal.

In September she filmed herself cutting her hair in protest over the detention and subsequent death of Mahsa Amini, which sparked mass protests in Iran. The demonstrations, which are still continuing, started after Ms Amini died in custody after being arrested on September 13 for allegedly wearing a hijab in an improper way.

In a show of support for protesters in her native country, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe chopped off chunks of her hair in the footage as she named Iranians who had allegedly suffered at the hands of the repressive regime.

She said she made the gesture “for the women of my land, for freedom, for justice”.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe reunited with family — in pictures

Woman of the Year

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s name appeared alongside Queen Elizabeth II in this year’s Harper’s Bazaar Women of the Year Awards.

The luxury fashion magazine’s annual ceremony, which took place at Claridge’s in London, was presented by Nicholas Hoult, Lashana Lynch and Lesley Manville, among other stars.

Lydia Slater, the editor-in-chief of Harper’s Bazaar, said: “Our talented winners have made some extraordinary contributions to the realms of fashion, film, art, literature, music and activism.

“We are delighted to have been able to celebrate these truly inspirational women in the company of our friends and supporters.”

Memoir on 'fear, faith and survival'

In October it was announced that the former detainee would release a memoir detailing her ordeal. The book, published by Penguin Random House, is expected to hit the shelves in autumn 2023.

Mrs Zaghari’s Ratcliffe will write the story with the help of her spouse, who for years tirelessly campaigned for her release.

Speaking about her upcoming book, she said her “story as a hostage is unique, but it is also the story of many other women in Iran in prison who are unknown but have helped me enormously to go through this journey and come out of it stronger”.

The mother-of-one said her harrowing tale will touch on “my own uncertainty, fear, faith, survival, hope and love but also the story of unity and solidarity from so many others.”

“Their struggles continue today,” she added.

Return to domestic life

Mr Ratcliffe, an accountant living in north London, has continued to support his wife after her release.

He was praised by campaigners for refusing to give up on his wife during her years in prison, and even went on hunger strike in a bid to pressure the UK government to take action.

As news broke in March that his wife was on a plane to the UK, he said he was looking forward to the “beginning of new life” with his spouse. He said he and seven-year-old Gabriella were excited about being a “normal family” again.

Mrs Zaghari Ratcliffe will guest edit BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Wednesday.

Updated: December 28, 2022, 11:20 AM
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