Richard Ratcliffe on hunger strike: ‘There’s no plan to get Nazanin out’

1 year ago 107

Richard Ratcliffe nary longer feels hunger pangs, arsenic agelong arsenic cipher mentions food. Even so, his inanition has near him feeling progressively weak, dulling his caput and senses arsenic helium begins to retreat into himself to absorption connected the task of survival.

It is the 13th time of his hunger onslaught connected Friday, sleeping successful near-freezing temperatures successful a pop-up structure pitched other the

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), fortified by his wide consciousness of purpose. He needs the authorities to recognize that “this is not a stunt”, but alternatively “a informing shot”.

He volition proceed until determination is acknowledgment that ministers request to enactment accelerated to spare his wife, the British-Iranian assistance idiosyncratic Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, from different twelvemonth successful a Tehran prisonafter completing a five-year condemnation connected the spying charges she has ever denied. The pair’s girl Gabriella, seven, is being cared for astatine the household location by Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s brother.

The question of erstwhile to halt is difficult. He knows that aft 25 days helium volition origin his assemblage imperishable damage. He is sleeping 10 hours a night, struggling to recuperate from a deficiency of sustenance. The past clip helium went connected hunger strike, extracurricular the Iranian embassy successful 2019, helium managed 15 days, which is the unsmooth threshold for making a consequent afloat recovery. That was successful June, and helium was joined by 100 sympathisers, creating what helium describes arsenic “almost a carnival feel”. This clip it is November, helium is flanked each nighttime by lone 2 household members oregon friends – and yet helium is determined to spell connected for longer.

“It’s much visceral this clip around. It’s smaller, darker, much pointed. I’m saying things I wouldn’t person said 2 years ago,” helium told the Guardian.

His utmost enactment is prompted by his disillusionment with the government’s handling of his wife’s case, and the “real drift” helium has observed since Boris Johnson became premier minister. “The argumentation is 1 of managed waiting, waiting for Iran to bash the close thing, for a diplomatic solution. There is nary strategy to get Naz home, which I said precise bluntly to [the overseas secretary] Liz Truss past week. That’s wherefore I’m camping connected the street, due to the fact that aft 5 and a fractional years that’s truly clear.”

He is particularly frustrated that Iran’s vice-president is being “wined and dined” by ministers astatine the Cop26 acme successful Glasgow. “I promised the Foreign Office […] I would find a mode to rainfall connected that parade. It’s the complicity, pretending the satellite tin conscionable spell connected arsenic normal.”

Ratcliffe’s top vexation is the government’s reluctance to admit an evident solution to Nazanin’s plight: paying the £400m indebtedness owed from a vessel bid made by the Iranian government, which the UK admits it ne'er delivered aft the gyration successful 1979 ushered successful a caller theocratic regime. “It’s perfectly wide that Nazanin isn’t coming location until they wage that debt. That’s a substance of conscience astatine a definite point, not authorities oregon law,” helium said.

Ratcliffe has sensed successful caller months that his lawsuit is nary longer prioritised by the FCDO. Where erstwhile it was “considered a prime-ministerial matter”, helium is present fobbed disconnected with meetings with inferior ministers. He was fixed a slot with Truss acknowledgment to the hunger strike, but near feeling “deflated and dumbfounded” by the deficiency of direction.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe Photograph: Free Nazanin Campaign/PA

He believes Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s lawsuit has present been folded successful with a fig of different geopolitical issues, including a atomic woody with Iran brokered by the US, and is being utilized arsenic “leverage to curry favour” up of a US-UK commercialized deal.
Placards propped astir the campsite outline cardinal demands for the government. One reads: “Choose to support your promise, take to wage your debts, take to escaped your citizens oregon proceed choosing to debar responsibility.” Another urges the UK authorities to “punish the perpetrators” and to “commit to extremity authorities hostage-taking” successful the Iran atomic woody negotiations.

Yet the ambiance astir the tiny encampment is cheering. The tents are festooned with fairy lights and surrounded by lit pumpkins carved by schoolchildren, on with the remnants of daytime crafting sessions. These see painted stones (intended to echo Boris Johnson’s erstwhile pledge to “leave nary chromatic unturned”), pennants scrawled with messages of enactment and a patchwork quilt woven by Amnesty International supporters.

Ratcliffe, an accountant by trade, is praised for his dedication and resoluteness passim the time by a dependable watercourse of well-wishers, including MPs, FCDO employees visiting successful a idiosyncratic capacity, and celebrities including Bill Bailey, Claudia Winkleman, Shappi Khorsandi and Victoria Coren Mitchell.

He spends astir of his clip talking to radical and doing media enactment to rise the illustration of the case. He is supported by a tiny service of dedicated volunteers, marshalled by his sister, Rebecca, a GP who gives him wellness advice. There is simply a consciousness of assemblage astir the origin – 1 unpaid who hands retired homemade badges describes herself arsenic a “groupie”. Others bring deliveries of beverage (no beverage oregon sugar), electrolytes and hot-water bottles.

He is moving intimately with the families of different British-Iranian detainees successful Iran, notably the children of Anoosheh Ashoori, who articulation him immoderate nights. “There’s spot successful numbers,” said girl Elika Ashoori. “For those of america who tin talk up it’s precise important we enactment unit connected the authorities different Iran volition proceed to clasp hostages and much families volition beryllium affected.”

Ratcliffe said that, portion his woman is broadly supportive, she is “worried astir her husband’s hare-brained scheme”, and is each excessively alert of the dangers of hunger striking aft turning yellowish erstwhile her liver began to fail. She besides worries astir however Gabriella volition fare. Ratcliffe said their girl “remembers we did 1 earlier and it ended up happily” – though helium is apprehensive astir however she volition consciousness successful aboriginal visits erstwhile she finds her begetter weaker still.

An FCDO spokesperson said: “Iran’s determination to proceed with these baseless charges against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is an appalling continuation of the cruel ordeal she is going through. Instead of threatening to instrumentality Nazanin to situation Iran indispensable merchandise her permanently truthful she tin instrumentality home. We are doing each we tin to assistance Nazanin get location to her young girl and household and we volition proceed to property Iran connected this point.”