Monday, 19 December 2016
IranianRevolutionaryGuard officialshave pressuredBritish-Iraniancharityworker Nazanin ZaghariRatcliffe,a prisoner ofconscience,tochoose betweenmovingher two- year-old daughter intoprisonwithherfor uptothree days a weekor signadocumentto saythatshe does notwantthe“righttobewithheryoung daughter”.
PrisonerofconscienceNazaninZaghariRatcliffe,a British-IraniancharityworkerheldinTehran’s Evin Prison, toldherhusband on 25November thatRevolutionaryGuard officials hadpressuredhertochoosebetweenmoving her two-year-olddaughter,GabriellaRatcliffe,intoSection2AofEvin Prisonwith her forupto three daysa weekor signa documenttosaythatshe doesnotwant“therighttobe withheryoungdaughter”.Thereare nosuitable facilitiesforchildreninsideEvin Prison.In herlastphone callwithherhusbandon2 December,NazaninZaghari Ratcliffesaidthatneitherchoiceisacceptableto her andwhatsherequestsfromthe authoritiesinstead is more regularvisits –eithera day-longvisit ortwohalf-dayvisits each week–with herdaughter.Sheiscurrently allowed tohaveonly onehour-longvisit perweek.Theauthoritiesseem tohaveimposed thischoiceina misguided
attempt tocounter the negativepublicitycaused by thefact thatshe hasbeen separated fromherchild.Shehas sufferedaseriousdeclinein herphysicalandmentalhealth,andwroteasuicidelettertoherhusbandin October.
NazaninZaghari Ratcliffewassentencedto fiveyears’ imprisonmentinSeptember following an unfairtrial beforea RevolutionaryCourtin Tehran,whichconvictedherontrumped-upnational securitycharges.Theprecise charges remainunknownto thefamily.Articles availableon state-runnewsoutletsindicate that herconvictionsolelystems fromherprofessional workwithmediafoundationsand charities basedintheUK.Atthe time ofherarrest,which happenedinAprilwhenshewasonholidayin Iran,shewasemployedasa project manager fortheThomson ReutersFoundation(TRF),managingjournalismandmediatraining projectsin countriesincluding Lebanon, Jordan,Morocco andMyanmarandpreparingfundraisingapplications.State-runnewsoutletshave claimedthat shewasa“spy” forTRF and thatTRF pursuestheinterests ofWesternstatesby promoting“Western-style” democracyindevelopingcountriesandfacilitating,in turn,“the erosionoflocal culturesand traditions”. Amnesty International understandsthatTRFhasnoprojectsonIran.InJune,theheadofthe justice departmentofKerman Province statedthat NazaninZaghari Ratcliffe had“conductedactionsagainstthesecurity ofthe country duringthe 2009sedition [referring to thepost-presidentialelectionprotests]through designingvariouswebsitesandcarrying outmediacampaigns”. Theseaccusationsaresolely based on the workthatshedidseven yearsagoinLondon as an administrativeassistantat BBC MediaActionfora projectthattrained youth journalistsin Afghanistan and Iran.
In October, Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe contemplated suicide after she was sentenced the previous month to five years’ imprisonment. Richard Ratcliffe told Amnesty International that her spirits sank so low that she wrote him a suicide letter. She also went on hunger strike on 13 November to express her despair over the prospect of never being released. She became so unwell that the authorities arranged an emergency family visit for her on 18 November. During the visit, her mother collapsed when she saw how thin her daughter had become. She ended her hunger strike the same day for the sake of her daughter. In prison, she has been suffering from heart palpitations, blurred vision, and pain in her hands, arms and shoulders.
Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe had been about to leave Iran with her then 22-month-old daughter to return to the UK when she was arrested on 3 April. Before being taken into custody, she was allowed to leave her daughter in the care of her parents, who had accompanied her to the airport. The authorities confiscated her daughter’s British passport. Her family returned to the airport twice after her arrest to inquire about her fate and whereabouts but the authorities refused to provide them with any information, including the reason for her arrest and detention. The authorities initially held her in an unknown location in Tehran for about a week before transferring her to an unknown detention facility in the city of Kerman, nearly 1,000km away from Tehran in the south of Iran. She was only permitted to make a brief telephone call to her family for the first time three or four days after her arrest but was not allowed to give any details during the phone call. On 11 April, her family received a telephone call from an official who only identified himself as the director of a detention centre in Kerman and who said she was “fine”. On 27 April, her family received another call, apparently from a Revolutionary Guard official who told them that she was being held for “reasons related to national security” and that she would likely be held for another two or three months until their investigation was complete. Her family was asked to prepare some clothes and money for her. For some time after her arrest, she was allowed intermittent telephone contact with her family in Iran but not with her husband; she is now permitted telephone calls with him.
Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe was only allowed to see her family, including her daughter, for the first time on 11 May, when she was taken to a hotel room in Kerman and permitted a closely supervised visit with her family. She was not allowed to discuss the details of her case. According to her family, she was visibly unwell: she had lost weight and was so weak that she could not stand up from her chair and was unable to lift her daughter. She was not allowed access to a lawyer, despite being repeatedly interrogated and told to sign a statement. On 18 May, she was taken to the women’s section in Kerman Prison and around a month later, in mid-June, she was transferred to Evin Prison, where she is being held in isolation in Section 2A, under the control of the Revolutionary Guards. The Iranian authorities have not allowed visits from British consular officials.
In August, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said that her detention was arbitrary and called on the Iranian authorities to immediately release her and accord her an enforceable right to compensation.
According to the UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules), “[n]on-custodial sentences for women with dependent children shall be preferred where possible and appropriate, with custodial sentences being considered only when the offence is serious or violent or the woman represents a continuing danger, and after taking into account the best interests of the child” (Rule 64). The same Rules state: “Visits involving children shall take place in an environment that is conducive to a positive visiting experience… and shall allow open contact between mother and child. Visits involving extended contact with children should be encouraged, where possible” (Rule 28).
Name: Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe
Gender m/f: f