Petition update

Day 223 #FreeNazanin – United Nationals

Richard Ratcliffe
London, United Kingdom

Nov 12, 2016 — It still continues – I’m sorry for the long silence (I am back at work). I have much to share.

It seems a long time ago given this week, but last month we went to the US – to New York and the UN. We went to raise out families’ cases with different diplomatic missions and UN offices, and to be there when President Rouhani and Prime Minister Theresa May met.

Since we went, the UN have issued a number of statements: Five UN Special Rapporteurs endorsed a statement calling Nazanin’s case a “mockery of justice.” The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled Nazanin’s detention arbitrary, and an unfair trial. They demanded she be released immediately, be compensated, and referred her case to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. They warned that systematically imprisoning dual nationals “may constitute a crime against humanity.”

It was that strong, and it felt like vindication. As Nazanin’s family, we have long been saying Nazanin’s treatment is wrong, but it is another thing when someone in authority finally does. It was something my family got to see: Nazanin got to hear of the ruling from her guards. Gabriella was pleased that she had seen mummy on TV.

If UN experts can say it, why not the UK? One of the disorientations these past 6 months has been the UK’s muted response. Oddly the government has avoided criticising Iran for what is being done to Nazanin. The new Ambassador has never publicly mentioned her case, or made contact with her or her lawyer. The UN has gone further to publicly defend Nazanin than her own government.

New York was also about learning. These months I have learned much from other families, particularly the son of Grandpa Kamal, but also those not in the public eye.

In this context, I find it easier to turn to those who already understand. Apart from family, it is hard to know who to trust - amongst all the undeclared agendas and interests on different sides. The government and I don’t exactly see trusting eye to eye (evidently common in this situation). Iranian spheres I barely understand. It is a trepid navigation.

So going to New York put us in contact with many others - sharing together the pressures on those around us, learning together how to swim. We each try different approaches. There is no roadmap. For some families things have worked; for us in the UK not yet. What is common is the uncertainty. The checking ourselves, the fear over what’s the right thing.

Sharing opened my eyes a little to what it is like for Nazanin inside those cells, the perpetual anxiety and legacy it leaves – on sounds behind her back, or choosing a meal, how long some things take to share.

I was struck by their strength of kindness. In the midst of all this cruelty, it is the kindness that counts: our New York mornings started with shared reflections, and all sorts of practical help. Since back I am thankful for the care from Homa’s family following her release, as Homa’s kindness to Nazanin in prison.

What we give each other is solidarity – the solidarity of wearing the same shoes. The pressure in Iran is to cope as individual families, each hoping for special clemency deals. The Foreign Office also treats us as individual consular cases, declines to meet the families together.

What New York taught me is that together we are stronger. We are not unconnected cases.

We’ve also been comparing - particularly how different countries have been successful in getting their people out. Nazanin asked me after Homa’s welcome release - why has the UK not managed it? She noted that Homa’s case was more serious, yet was solved by Canada, when they don’t even have an embassy – and in our case there is a baby? What is holding our government back?

Of course she is being fed information. But the basic question remains – for 2016, it is US 5 releases, Canada 2, and the UK 0. That is after upgrading our Embassy, holding new trade conferences and releasing various banks from sanctions, and never criticising Iran’s treatment of Nazanin.

So I came back with a renewed set of things for campaigning, alone and jointly. There are a number of British families in this situation, some for many years. We have started some lobbying together. Two weeks ago we took a petition of thousands Amnesty supporters, with a letter from over 100 MPs and Peers to ask the Foreign Secretary to stand up publicly, or at least to meet us.

More happened that day (next update), which has reminded me again in all these public stages, of the need to hold on to the intimate spaces. This does not define any of us.

I am glad I ended the trip to the US with something personal. Last year we also went to New York. I wanted to visit again somewhere we had been together, the Alice in Wonderland Memorial in Central Park – to remember a happy day of Gabriella clambering, and an ice cream in the sun, to hold onto the happy us before all this happened, the happiness one day to come.

That is the picture I share. I sent it to Nazanin - so she knows they were there with me. As one day they will be here.

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