Anglo-Iranian political prisoner Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (File)
Anglo-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi, held as political prisoners, have announced they will go on hunger strike in Tehran.
Zaghari and Iranian human rights activist Narges Mohammadi announced on Thursday that they are protesting denial of access to medical care. They said the initial strike will be for three days, with a possible extension if demands are not met:
In protest to this illegal, inhuman and unlawful behaviour, and to express our concerns for our health and survival at this denial of specialist treatment, despite taking daily medicines, we will go on hunger strike from 14.01.2019 to 16.01.2019.
We announce that in the event of the authority’s failure to address these concerns and them further endangering our health, we will take further action.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard Ratcliffe said his wife has been refused medical treatment for lumps in her breasts, neck pain, and numbness in her arms and legs. She has also been barred from seeing an outside psychiatrist, despite approval by a prison doctor.
He said Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s outlook after 32 months in detention is “very bleak”: “She certainly feels she has got no choice. She thinks enough is enough.”
Ratcliffe noted that her 40th birthday was on December 26: “I think it was passing that milestone and feeling she’s never going to get out, and that she is going to be denied having another baby.”
Framing A Charity Worker for “Espionage”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a charity worker for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was seized in April 2016 at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airports as she and her daughter Gabriella, then 1 1/2, were leaving Iran after visiting relatives.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was eventually given a five-year sentence on “espionage”, with no evidence presented in public. At the end of 2017, Iranian authorities finally released a few documents on State TV, but they only showed that Zaghari-Ratcliffe had worked as an administrator for BBC Media Action, a program which trains journalist overseas.
The Iranian regime has accused the BBC of being an outlet for regime change, harassing staff of BBC Persian and threatening their relatives.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was given a brief furlough from prison in August to see her mother and her daughter Gabriella, now 4, who has had to remain in Iran after her passport was taken.
Mohammadi, vice president of the Center for Defenders of Human Rights, is serving a 16-year sentence for her role in the CDHR and for “establishing and running the illegal splinter group Legam”, which campaigns for the abolition of Iran’s death penalty.
She has suffered from recurrent serious health problems.
Regime’s “Shameful” Denial of Care
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt expressed concern on Friday that Iran is denying medical care for the women, saying it was “shameful”.
“I was given a clear assurance that [Zaghari-Ratcliffe] would be given access to all the doctors that she needed. That hasn’t happened,” Hunt said.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry refused to back down on Saturday. Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said Hunt’s concern was “meddlesome and absurd”: “Unfortunately, the British foreign secretary has made hasty and false remarks several times in recent days about an issue which has basically nothing to do with his country.”