Petition update

Day 260 #FreeNazanin – The Kindness of Strangers

Richard Ratcliffe
London, United Kingdom

Dec 19, 2016 — Another last minute message:

This evening (Monday 19 December) we have Christmas carol singing for Nazanin and the other families at 6pm in front of Downing Street – if you have time to attend, it would be great to see you there.

Even if not, this message is to acknowledge the overwhelming response and kindness this past two weeks. We have all felt it. I wanted to say thank you.

Our first thank you is to Hampstead Mums – for organising their Mums’ March past Trafalgar Sq, Downing St, the Foreign Office and Parliament. Around 200 people came, mums and their babies from across London – but also from as far as Bristol and Birmingham. For some it was their first demonstration, for us (I was there with my mum and a number of my cousins and aunt) the first time we had sung to the Foreign Office – which brought many more people to their windows to witness.

I got to tell Nazanin of it over the phone – few things bring a smile to her face these days. But that did. I also got to tell her that they had held inter-faith prayers for her alongside the Christmas lights, and had planted some daffodils in the park, Nazanin’s favourite flower. They will be there waiting for her spring.

Our second thank you is to all the Amnesty groups for their Write for Rights events, and to all those individuals, Amnesty groups, schools, etc. who have sent in cards and letters for Nazanin. So far some 26,000 cards and messages have been received and are on their way to Evin prison. Plus many have sent cards to the prison directly. That is a lot of cards to break her isolation.

I spoke to Nazanin on Friday – she has not received any letters yet. Remember Sayyid (Nazanin’s main Guard) promised he would look out for them and ensure they were delivered. Other prisoners talk about them being collected into a room – shown to them selectively near the end, when their volume just became too much. So it will be a good sign when she finally does see them.

If you still want to write to Nazanin, you can:
Via Amnesty: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe c/o Individuals At Risk Section, Amnesty International UK, Human Rights Action Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA, UK
Via the Iranian Embassy: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe c/o Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 16 Princes Gate, London, SW7 1PT
Or direct to the prison in Iran: Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, Evin Prison, District 2, Behesht St, Tehran, Iran
Electronic messages can be sent here:

If your children have a quiet moment during the holidays, we are also continuing to receive children’s postcards (via the Amnesty address) for our ‘Far From Home’ touring exhibition.

It is always hard to know the effects of this campaigning. It’s a world of big politics where I find I never know quite what works, or how. It really does feel like flapping a butterfly wing.

But two things happened in Iran last week that reminded me that the little things still matter – all the more when the stakes are so big.

First, the British Ambassador to Tehran went to visit Gabriella and check she is ok. I am grateful for him making the time. For his visit reminding Nazanin that the government does care for her and her family. She seemed stronger for the news.

Second, we have a number of core supporters sharing Nazanin’s case on social media, whose care I should have acknowledged long ago - for how important it has been to our UK family. We have one supporter – a retired lady with a kind smile, who has been tireless in her tweeting government officials and famous people, continuing to raise the name of Nazanin.

A couple of her many tweets, one expressing concern about Nazanin’s health, and one on an Amnesty blog of mine calling on the UK government to act, were recently retweeted by a UN official. (Both are points consistent with what the UN has said officially.)

They provoked angry displacement in Iran – the government put out a news report criticising him for “his unconventional and meddlesome remarks.” That he should “only operate within his sphere of expertise and responsibilities.” He was called in to meet the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There was a feature on Iranian state TV on the interference of UN – highlighting his stwitter account and Facebook page with blurred pictures of Nazanin.

That news item was shown on prison TV. So Nazanin got to see it, and see herself as an object of international concern. Thanks to our retired supporter, she got to see that the outside world cares. Which was perhaps not quite what the authorities intended. I have told the Embassy there is an easy way to get people to stop talking about Nazanin. In fact it is the only way.

Following this, last weekend our most prominent supporters’ Twitter accounts were all hacked. Coincidentally, the Free Nazanin Facebook account was taken out for 36 hours, plagued by lots of impersonations and friend requests.

Once the IT no longer defeated me, I took the silencing as a backhanded compliment, an acknowledgement of the discomfort in being watched. There is less space to pretend.

While I do not mean to saccharine the situation, it showed the strength of ordinary voices raising Nazanin’s name and the names of others. It shows the power of what ordinary kindness can achieve - that kindness brings sunlight, and sunlight really is the best form of disinfectant.

That is why we sing today.

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