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In profile: British-Iranian mother who was jailed in Iran

PA Reporters
·3-min read

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s sentence is scheduled to come to an end this weekend, nearly five years after she was first locked up in a Tehran jail.

The 42-year-old charity worker, of Hampstead, north-west London, was sentenced to five years in jail over allegations, which she denies, of plotting to overthrow the Tehran government, having been arrested in 2016 during a holiday visit to show her baby daughter Gabriella to her parents.

The British-Iranian dual national has always insisted she was not working for Thomson Reuters Foundation in Iran at the time of her arrest.

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During her detention, family and friends in the UK have long fought for her freedom, and during the global coronavirus pandemic she was granted temporary release.

In late February 2020, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was reported to have contracted the disease as it spread through Iran and the Evin prison, but she was never tested.

Weeks later, in mid-March, she was initially allowed to her parents’ home and the temporary furlough was later extended amid hopes she would be granted clemency.

She has remained under house arrest at her parent’s Tehran home ever since.

Richard Ratcliffe
Richard Ratcliffe near his home in Hampstead, London (Aaron Chown/PA)

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe has barely seen her daughter throughout her imprisonment, but was granted a three-day release in summer 2018.

After three years with her grandparents, Gabriella, then aged five, was allowed to return to her father in the UK in October 2019, but, during Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s furlough, the family have regularly spoken on video chat.

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe previously told the PA news agency that before his wife’s detention, she was “really, really proud” of Iran.

“The Iran she knew and she loved is not the Iran that has treated her this way. That is one of the hardest things,” he said.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe was born and raised in Tehran and studied English literature at the capital’s university, before becoming an English teacher.

Following a devastating earthquake in Iran in 2003, she went to work as a translator in the relief effort for the Japanese International Co-operation Agency.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and their daughter Gabriella
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and their daughter Gabriella (Family Handout/PA)

She then went on to work for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, before moving to the World Health Organisation as a communications officer.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe came to the UK in 2007 after securing a scholarship at London Metropolitan University to study for a masters in communication management.

It was a month after her arrival in the UK that she met her future husband through mutual friends.

Describing their first date, Mr Ratcliffe said they “clicked” and he felt like he had “come home”.

The couple got married in August 2009 in Winchester and Gabriella was born in June 2014, something Mr Ratcliffe said changed both their outlooks on life.

“It was very important for Nazanin to keep going back to Iran to show her daughter to her parents … before she would always go once a year, but she tried to go twice after,” he said.

Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe began working at Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2011 as a project co-ordinator before taking on the role of a project manager.

Mr Ratcliffe has described his wife as very house-proud, meticulous and tidy, and said she has a “pretty keen sense of justice”.