Jailed aid worker Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband appeals to Iranian minister on UK visit

This file photo shows Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (R) posing for a photograph with her husband Richard and daughter Gabriella (L). (AFP/Free Nazanin campaign)
Updated 21 February 2018
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Jailed aid worker Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband appeals to Iranian minister on UK visit

LONDON: Richard Ratcliff has made a further appeal for the release of his wife, British-Iranian citizen Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been imprisoned in Iran since April 2016.
Ratcliff delivered letters of support for his wife, a charity worker serving a five-year prison sentence in Iran, to the Iranian embassy on Wednesday morning. He is hoping they will be seen by Iran’s deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi, who is visiting the UK this week.
“We’re delivering the letters today because of the opportunity of the deputy foreign minister being here,” Ratcliff told the Press Association outside the Iranian embassy in west London.
“He’s here to improve relations between Iran and the UK and we want Nazanin to be right at the front of that.”
He was joined by supporters from Amnesty International, who said they would not rest until her release.
Zaghari-Ratciffe, a project manager for Thomson Reuters Foundation says she was in Iran to visit relatives with her daughter Gabriella, who was 18 months old at the time of her mother’s arrest.
She stands accused of plotting to overthrow the Iranian regime, but many believe her incarceration is a political ploy.
UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson inflamed the situation last year when he told a parliamentary committee that Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been in Iran to train journalists. He later apologized for comments that risked worsening her plight.
Iranian officials recently proposed moving Zaghari-Ratciffe and her daughter, who is currently residing with her grandparents in Iran, to a rented house under armed gaurd. Her husband has refused the offer.
“The family’s view was that this would simply be a different kind of imprisonment, and not an option for Nazanin and Gabriella.”
“We are not about to put Gabriella under armed guard,” he said in a statement.


Syrian children study on the ground in abandoned villa

Displaced Syrian children attend class at a makeshift school in the village of Muhandiseen, in the south western countryside of the Aleppo province, on September 24, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 25 September 2018
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Syrian children study on the ground in abandoned villa

  • Some sit with their knees drawn on a plastic woven carpet, their shoes neatly by its side

ALEPPO, Syria: In rebel-held northern Syria, displaced children sit or lie on the ground of an unfinished villa, bending over their notebooks to apply themselves as they write the day’s lesson.
Four teachers instruct around 100 children — girls and boys aged six to 12 — at the makeshift school in an opposition-held area in the west of the northern province of Aleppo.
Between the bare walls of the villa abandoned mid-construction, children sit or lie on sheets or plain carpets, their small backpacks cast by their side.
Dubbed “Buds of Hope,” the teaching facility has no desks, library or even working toilets.
Instead, the air wafts in from beyond the pine trees outside through the gaping windows in the cement wall.
Dressed in a bright blue T-shirt and jeans, her hair neatly tied back in a pony tail, a barefoot girl kneels over her book, carefully writing.
“This isn’t a school,” says 11-year-old Ali Abdel Jawad.
“There aren’t any classrooms, no seats, nothing. We’re sitting on the ground,” he says.
In one classroom, a gaggle of veiled young girls sit on a bench, as the teacher explains the lesson to one of their male counterparts near a rare white board.
In another, the school’s only female teacher perches on a plastic chair, as her students gather around on the floor, their backs against the wall.

Some sit with their knees drawn on a plastic woven carpet, their shoes neatly by its side.
The children — as well as their teachers — have been displaced from their homes in other parts of Syria due to the seven-year war, a teacher told an AFP photographer.
Some hail from Eastern Ghouta outside Damascus, a former rebel stronghold that fell back under regime control in April after a blistering offensive and surrender deals.
Others come from the central provinces of Hama or Homs.
A dry fountain lies in the courtyard outside the villa’s elegant facade, where girls link arms and swing around in a circle.
Schools in opposition-held areas are generally funded by aid organizations, but have in the past been hit by bombardment.
“We’re always scared of bombardment and of the situation in general,” says one of the teachers, giving his name as Mohammed.
The building lies in rebel-held territory adjacent to regime-controlled parts of Aleppo city to the east, but also the major opposition stronghold of Idlib to the west.
Some three million people live in the Idlib province and adjacent areas of the neighboring Aleppo and Latakia provinces, around half of them displaced by war in other parts of Syria.
Earlier this month, many feared a regime assault on Idlib, but last week Damascus ally Moscow and rebel backer Ankara announced a deal to temporarily halt it.