Following six years as a hostage in Iran, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe talks eloquently, and sometimes with anger, about faith, love and freedom
What a truly remarkable hour, as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her husband address the hardships for their family and their friends as they worked, tiredlessly, to set her free.
Photo: Screenshot – Former hostage Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe speaks publicly for first time
21 March 2-22 | Sky News
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has criticised the UK government for the delay in securing her release, saying “what happened now should have happened six years ago”.
In her first news conference since arriving back in the UK, the 43-year-old thanked supporters including her “amazing, wonderful” husband Richard for campaigning for her release.
But she said the journey home had been “tough” and delays in settling a £400m debt with Iran dating back to 1979 contributed to her “cruel” six-year detention.
Watch: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe speaks publicly for first time
She said: “I was told many many time that ‘oh, we’re going to get you home’. That never happened.
“How many foreign secretaries does it take to get someone home? What happened now should have happened six years ago.”
She added that the “meaning of freedom is never going to be complete” until Morad Tahbaz and other dual nationals are released and reunited with their families.
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe said: “I believe that the meaning of freedom is never going to be complete as to such time that all of us who are unjustly detained in Iran are reunited with our families.
“To begin with Morad, but also the other dual nationals, members of religious groups, or prisoners of conscience who are, I mean, we do realise that if I have been in prison for six years there are so many other people we don’t know their names who have been suffering in prison in Iran.
“The justice in Iran does not have any meaning.”
She said she was “very grateful to whoever has been involved in getting us home” and highlighted the work of her lawyer in Iran who had been “fearlessly fighting” for her release.
Moment of return was ‘precious’ and ‘very emotional’
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was “powerless” in prison and said she was “overwhelmed” as she landed back in the UK.
“That moment was precious,” she said. “I’ve been waiting for that moment for such a long time.
“And I was overwhelmed, specifically to get to know Gabriella and Richard after such a long time.
“It was a very, very emotional moment.”
She said after “week two or three” of her detention, Iranian officials had “told me they want something from the Brits” in a reference to the debt issue.
She further reflected on her overall experience, saying it will “always haunt her” but that there had been a “black hole” in her heart which she had left on the plane.
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was joined by her husband, Richard, at Portcullis House in London to talk about her experience, along with their local MP Tulip Siddiq – who had long campaigned for her return.
Ms Siddiq, Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn and shadow economic secretary to the Treasury, met the British-Iranian charity worker for the first time on Sunday after six years of campaigning.
She told the news conference she asked the Foreign Affairs Committee of MPs to investigate Nazanin’s case.
Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained on security charges in 2016 by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard at Imam Khomeini airport after a holiday to Iran during which she introduced her daughter to her parents.
She arrived back in Britain alongside fellow dual national Anoosheh Ashoori, who was arrested in August 2017 while visiting his elderly mother in Tehran.
The 67-year-old was detained in Evin Prison for almost five years, having been accused of spying.
Both Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Mr Ashoori have consistently denied the allegations against them.
Campaigners are now hoping Iran will release 66-year-old British-US national Morad Tahbaz, who was held in January 2018 during a crackdown on environmental activists.