On April 3, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was about to board a plane to go back home to the United Kingdom after visiting her family in Iran.
That’s when the Iranian Revolutionary guard stopped her at Imam Khomeini airport and took her into custody.
The British-Iranian woman was separated from her 22-month-old daughter, Gabriella, who is now staying with her grandparents in Tehran but has not been allowed to leave the country since her passport has been confiscated.
More than 30 days into her arrest, her husband Richard Ratcliffe says Zaghari-Ratcliffe is being held in solitary confinement over "national security" issues.
"The cruelty of the situation seems both outrageous and arbitrary,” he told BBC. “That a young mum and baby can be treated as some national security threat is absurd, far outside any reality our family was familiar with."
Ratcliffe, who has been advised against visiting Iran, claims his wife has not been allowed to hire a lawyer since her imprisonment. Although no charges have been pressed, yet, he claims Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been forced to confess to unspecified crimes "under duress.”
The husband’s fears are not unfounded. Zaghari-Ratcliffe holds dual citizenship, which Iran doesn’t recognize.
A lot of dual citizens have been arrested in recent years on “national security” charges. A widely documented case in this regard was that of The Washington Post’s Iranian-American reporter in Tehran, Jason Rezaian, who was arrested in July 2014. He was later indicted on “vague” charges, including espionage and "propaganda against the establishment.”
Rezaian was released earlier this year in January, after spending more than 500 days in jail.
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Ratcliffe has contacted the Foreign Office to secure Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release: “I am pleading to the British authorities, now that delegations are traveling between the two countries to improve trade and understanding that all efforts are made to bring my wife and daughter home as quickly as possible, and to get Nazanin out of solitary confinement immediately.”
A Change.org petition addressed to the British Prime Minister of the United Kingdom calling for Nazanin’s release has also been launched. So far, it has amassed 47,546 of the 50, 000 signatures needed. Meanwhile, people are tweeting out their support for the imprisoned woman on social media using the hashtag #FreeNazanin.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Handout via Reuters