Petition update

Day 93 #FreeNazanin – Mummy and Me and Manamy

Richard Ratcliffe
London, United Kingdom

Jul 5, 2016 — This is a happier update - This weekend Nazanin had a family visit with her mum and Gabriella. She was also allowed to call me. Your candles are working.

The visit was a chance for Nazanin to see Gabriella. It was also a chance for her mum, ‘Manamy’, to see Nazanin. There are two mothers in this story being prevented from their daughters. Since the move to Evin 3 weeks ago, they have seen each other three times.

Actually Farsi for Granny is ‘Mamany’ - ‘Manamy’ is Gabriella’s own way of saying it. They always had a special bond – Manamy came to stay when she was born. She could rock Gabriella to sleep and calm her as a baby in a way no one else managed. This photo is from our first family holiday together.

Nazanin has always trusted her mum with Gabriella, in a way she has not always trusted her husband’s parenting. Nazanin’s mum has always insisted: she took care of Gabriella from Nazanin; it is to Nazanin that she will return her. These days Gabriella is very dependent. Manamy tended her through those first weeks of broken nightmares. Even now she only sleeps next to her grandmother. Only Manamy can get her water, or persuade her to eat. Equally only Gabriella, with her ready smile and readier demands, can draw Manamy out of her saddest worries.

Family visits remain discretionary – a call comes and Manamy has a few hours to get there, or miss the chance. Each of the visits has been for an hour or more. Conversation is controlled, with two Revolutionary Guards in the room, and one outside the door. But Gabriella is happily unfazed. They are a chance to cuddle, and cry, but also a chance to organise her mummy – singing songs, drawing pictures of Peppa Pig and George, then naming the colours she can see. Three times Gabriella has been able to see her mum, and be reminded of her care.

In Evin Prison Nazanin’s conditions seem improved. She is in the wing controlled by the Revolutionary Guard. But she is not alone, with one other cellmate. Her diet now includes some fresh fruit, and iron supplements. The room even has a TV. Nazanin’s mother has been allowed to bring in some nuts. On Saturday they were even able to bring her a book.

Worries remain - Nazanin’s communication with her mum remains controlled. In normal times they used to speak every day. Here she has been able to call once a week, supervised. Sometimes calm, sometimes quite distraught. There is no warning for her family when she can call, and no one can call her.

Last week she was allowed to write a letter to me in English, and to give it to her mum to deliver. As my mother-in-law was leaving the prison, the letter was quietly taken off her. Nazanin did not find out until interrogation was completed.

Now it has, the rules have changed – our big news is that on Sunday Nazanin was allowed to call me. Again I was able to hear her voice. She said how kind it was for her captors to allow it. I am grateful they did.

She said she was so sorry for what our family are enduring, what it is doing to us. Nazanin always said that one of the biggest surprises of motherhood was the amount of worry – whether Gabriella was eating properly, or ok at nursery, or she was spending enough time with her. On Sunday she just wanted to be told to keep strong for just a bit longer. She is fasting this Ramadan. I asked whether she is well enough. She said she had to be, to find strength and trust in God after the many dark days of despair.

Weaponising the worry of motherhood is a common political technique in Iran. It is one of the darker places that the Regime has got to. On Saturday I met a group of mothers of Iranian political prisoners who stand in Trafalgar Square once a month as testimony.

The giving and taking of family contact is not accidental, but part of a studied psychological process. Kept isolated, blamed that this is her fault, Nazanin is pushed to worry about what she is missing, what could be worse, what could be hers if only she would cooperate, again, more.

It is why Nazanin has been shown my interviews in Farsi, looking tired and troubled, alongside occasional access to Gabriella – to feel what her incarceration does to her family. It is why Nazanin’s mother receives whispered warnings at family visits for the safety of her other children if not kept quiet.

But this mother’s care is also why there is hope. One of the things Nazanin’s interrogators acknowledged this weekend’s visit was that they are speeding up her case – because they remember their own children at Gabriella’s age and their need for their mother.

I hope this Ramadan they continue to cherish them, and worry for the world all our children inherit.


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