London, 13 Mar – The health of a British aid worker, detained in Iran on spurious national security charges, has gone downhill so fast that she lost a significant amount of weight, is suffering from hair loss and is practically unable to walk.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 38, a British-Iranian citizen, was arrested when she was trying to return to Britain with her daughter Gabriella after visiting family in Iran last April.
She was held for five months without charges before being tried for attempting to overthrow the Iranian Regime and sentenced to five years in Evin prison.
She appealed her sentence in January but it was rejected.
Her sister-in-law Rebecca Jones, has spoken to The Mirror about their concerns for Nazanin.
Jones, a GP, said: “Nazanin is still in Evin Prison. She’s now in a political wing, so she is no longer isolated and is with other prisoners so she is starting to make friends… She now has more regular visits from Gabriella with her mum and dad and she gets occasional calls to Richard (her husband) once or twice a month.”
Dr Jones continued: “Physically, her health is deteriorating. She now has problems with her left shoulder, neck and left arm. She had a visit from a neurologist who wanted her to go to the hospital but every prison has rejected that, though negotiations are ongoing.
Mrs Jones said: “[Nazanin’s] still very desperate to come out as soon as possible. She’s having a lot of panic attacks, anxiety and restless nights which are affecting her physical health as well. In many ways, things have got better for her but I think it has hit home that her release might not be imminent any time soon. Of course, she has been in prison with women who haven’t been released for seven or eight years.”
Richard has not seen his wife or daughter since they left for Iran; Gabriella is being cared for by Nazanin’s parents who live in Tehran because the Regime refuses to release her passport and allow the toddler to return home.
He has been in regular contact with the UK Government in order to secure the release of his wife and daughter.
Dr Jones said: “The whole family are bewildered why nobody high up in the Government hasn’t asked for her release. When you go back and talk to the Government and nothing much has changed, it’s disheartening really.”
Dr Jones will be holding an event in Cardiff city centre next Sunday to celebrate Nowruz, the traditional Iranian festival of spring, which was the reason that Nazanin visited Iran in the first place.
They will plant 30 hyacinths in the market garden to symbolise the coming of Spring.
Dr Jones said: “We’re doing this to mark Nowruz which is why Nazanin went out to Iran in the first place and to show her we are still thinking of her. When we have events like this, it’s uplifting to get support from people and it helps Nazanin and her family.”
A spokesman for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said: “We are deeply concerned that Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s sentence has been confirmed following an unsuccessful appeal while Iran continues to refuse the UK consular access to her. The UK’s Minister for the Middle East, Tobias Ellwood, has spoken to his Iranian opposite number to express our concerns. The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary have both previously raised this case with their counterparts.”
They continued: “We have been supporting Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s family since we were first made aware of her arrest. Mr Ellwood has met her husband in London and her family in Tehran to assure them that we will continue to do all we can for her. We are continuing to press the Iranians for consular access and for due process to be followed, and are ready to help get her daughter back safely to the UK if requested.”