23 March 2022, The Tablet

Church leaders among those celebrating return of Nazanin

Church leaders among those celebrating return of Nazanin

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Richard Ratcliffe during a press conference hosted by their local MP Tulip Siddiq at Portcullis House, London on Monday.

Church leaders and groups were among the supporters celebrating as Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was finally reunited with her husband and daughter in the UK, after six years of detention in Iran. 

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby tweeted: “Rejoicing in this wonderful news and praying for Nazanin and her family as they prepare to be reunited at long last.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe  and Anoosheh Ashoori, both British-Iranian nationals, returned to Britain on 17 March. Nazanin was arrested in 2016 on charges of plotting to overthrow Iran’s government, something she always denied. The release came after the UK government settled a debt to Iran of almost £400m dating from the 1970s. She was welcomed back to Britain by her husband Richard, who tirelessly campaigned for her release, and her seven-year-old daughter Gabriella.

The Zaghari-Ratcliffe family have been supported by their Church of England parish of Emmanuel Church, West Hampstead, throughout her detention. The Vicar, Revd Jonathan Kester, described her release as “wonderful news”. He said: “At Emmanuel Church we have lit a candle for Nazanin by a photograph of the family each day for the past six years of her captivity and our members have supported the campaign for her release in whatever way possible.”

At a press conference on Monday, Zaghari-Ratcliffe said her faith helped me get through the ordeal and that she is ready to move forwards: “I’m not going to live my life with a grudge.” Richard said he was grateful that in the six years of waiting “lots of people waited with us”.

Richard Ratcliffe’s last hunger strike four months ago to press the Government into taking firmer action was supported by Church leaders, politicians of all parties and justice groups. Raising the issue in the House of Lords on 30 October 2021, Lord Alton of Liverpool deplored “the shocking treatment of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe”. Colette Joyce from Westminster Diocese Justice and Peace described the case of Nazanin as “truly shocking”. 

The Christians rock band launched a Christmas single in December to raise money and awareness for the Free Nazanin Campaign. Richard Ratcliffe and Gabriella joined in the recording and are seen in the music video. More than three million people signed the Free Nazanin Ratcliffe petition.





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