’Broken up’: Father fights for wife’s release in Iran

Iranian-British aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is seen with her husband Richard Ratcliffe and her daughter Gabriella in an undated photo handed out by her family. (Reuters)
Updated 11 November 2017
0

’Broken up’: Father fights for wife’s release in Iran

LONDON: A British accountant fighting for his wife’s release from an Iranian jail is now at the center of a diplomatic storm that has led to calls for Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson to resign.
More than 19 months since his wife was arrested at Tehran airport, Richard Ratcliffe told AFP that all he wanted was to be reunited with his wife and daughter in time for the holidays.
“The best case scenario is to get her home by Christmas,” said the softly-spoken 42-year-old.
Dual national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been jailed on sedition charges while her daughter Gabriella, now three, had her British passport confiscated and has since been living with her grandparents in Iran.
“We’re obviously a very truncated, broken up family at the moment,” said Ratcliffe, who speaks to his wife by phone and has Skype conversations with his daughter.
Via Skype “we can cuddle each other and share food and cups of tea,” he said.
National attention has fallen on his case in recent days, after Johnson last week said that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was training journalists in Iran, comments which the Iranian judiciary has since used to justify her detention.
Her family and employer the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a media charity where she worked as a project manager, have insisted that she was on holiday in Iran.
Johnson has said his words were misinterpreted.
“Suddenly what is just our family’s story gets embroiled in much higher levels of politics, and (I’m) thinking, ‘gosh, I’m out of my depth here’,” said Ratcliffe.
An editorial in The Times on Friday said Johnson’s position was “vulnerable” and would become “untenable” if the Iranian judiciary were to use his remarks to justify further detention of Zaghari-Ratcliffe.

But Ratcliffe has refused to get involved in the scandal over Johnson’s remarks, keeping a measured tone in pushing for the British government to help secure her release.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was detained in April 2016 and initially spent months in solitary confinement but has been able to speak to her husband once a week since April this year.
She now also receives twice-weekly prison visits from their daughter.
“They colored in a picture of a reindeer at the last visit, because they’re talking about Christmas and going home for Christmas,” said Ratcliffe.
Gabriella, he explained, has requested a pair of red shoes from Father Christmas.
The little girl “barely” speaks English any more, her father said, except for the phrases: “Daddy I like you,” “See you tomorrow” and “I miss you.”
The family is now waiting to see whether Iranian authorities will approve Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s application for early release, which her husband said could happen in two weeks.
She is, however, facing further charges carrying a possible 16-year prison sentence, which her legal team is seeking to have quashed.
A new trial would put the family in a “much darker place,” Ratcliffe said.
But he remains hopeful that the momentum gained in recent days will lead to her release, and give his family the chance to make up for the time they have lost.
“We can’t get that back, what we can do is get her home as soon as possible and then rebuild that family unit and cherish what we will have again.”


Letter to Qatar: Abandon PR, change attitude, and siege would be lifted

Updated 26 April 2018
0

Letter to Qatar: Abandon PR, change attitude, and siege would be lifted

LONDON: Four Arab ambassadors have called on Qatar to improve relations with its neighbors, change its attitude and stop its support for extremism, terror and destabilization in the region.

The four ambassadors of Saudi Arabia (Mohammed bin Nawwa), Bahrain (Fawaz bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa), the UAE (Suleiman Al-Mazroui) and Egypt (Nasser Kamel) co-wrote a letter published on Wednesday in the Financial Times to answer an FT lead article titled “Qatar siege is meaningless.”

The ambassadors stressed in the letter that their governments had no plans to incorporate Qatar, as the FT claimed, but all they hoped for is that the Doha government committed to the international criteria to fight terrorism and “stop its support for terror and extremism in the region.”

In the letter, the four ambassadors reminded the paper that the prime minister of Qatar attended the wedding of the son of Abdel Rahman Al-Nueimi,who is listed on a US terror list, and is the main conduit to Al-Qaeda in Iraq where, according to the US, he funnelled millions of US dollars to the organization there.

The ambassadors added that Al-Nueimi is one of many sponsors of terror living and working in Qatar.

The ambassadors drew the readers’ attention to Qatar’s “double standard behavior” — saying one thing to the West, and doing the opposite.

They concluded the letter by demonstrating Qatar’s “duplicity.”

They said that Qatar has recently intensified the use of its media and PR to promote and support terror in the Middle East generally and in Saudi Arabia especially.

Recently Qatari broadcasters opened their airwaves to Houthi militia in Yemen and its propaganda calling for attacking Saudi Arabia.

In conclusion the ambassadors called on Doha to quit its public relations campaign and change its attitude — only then would the siege be over.