UK woman imprisoned in Iran becomes 'suicidal' after hunger strike

Dual British-Iranian national has been detained since early April and is accused by Iran's Revolutionary Guards of trying to overthrow the Iranian government.

November 21, 2016 17:35
2 minute read.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (R). (photo credit: FREE NAZANIN RATCLIFFE CHANGE.ORG PETITION)

A dual British-Iranian national sentenced to five years in an Iranian prison has become suicidal after going on a hunger strike, her husband has told the British Guardian.

Thomson Reuters Foundation employee Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 37, has been detained since early April and is accused by Iran's Revolutionary Guards of trying to overthrow the Iranian government.

Iranian authorities have held Zaghari-Ratcliffe at the Islamic Republic's infamous Evin prison while the exact reason for her arrest reportedly remains unclear. She was arrested in April at the airport in Tehran while preparing to return from a family visit in Iran back to the UK along with her young daughter, according to her family

Richard Ratcliffe, the husband of the incarcerated project manager for the London-based charity organization, said his wife is "at breaking point," the Guardian reported Monday. 

“When [Iranian-Canadian professor] Homa Hoodfar was released [in September], she was really hopeful that she would be next and she got moved into a big room," he told the British newspaper. "She was very excited. Then she got moved back to a small room, which sent her down to a sense that nothing is going to happen, and that’s when she started feeling suicidal.”

The imprisoned Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband said his wife had not mentioned the hunger strike when they spoke about a week ago, but he was later informed of it by prison authorities who summoned the family to the jail.

“They received a call on Thursday to go to Evin prison on Friday for an emergency visit for the whole family. It had never happened before,” he said.

"She was complaining about pain in her hands, arms and neck and that she was having strange palpitations, and that she was having blurred vision – clearly the impact of her diet, her long incarceration."

He added that Richard Ratcliffe's mother was distressed to see the deterioration of her daughter's condition. "When her mum saw her on Friday, her mum passed out.”

Citing concerns by the chief executive of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Monique Villa, the Guardian reported that the imprisoned aid worker had eventually been convinced by her mother to eat some cheese.

The Guardian report noted that it was not known whether Zaghari-Ratcliffe had resumed her hunger strike over the weekend following the family's visit.

In August, British Prime Minister Theresa May raised concerns with Iran's President Hassan Rouhani over several cases involving dual British-Iranian nationals, including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

"The Prime Minister raised concerns about a number of consular cases involving dual nationals, including that of Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, and stressed the importance of resolving these cases as we worked to strengthen our diplomatic relationship," May's office said after the two leaders spoke on the telephone.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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