Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's daughter returns to UK after three years
11 October 2019, 08:29 | Updated: 11 October 2019, 13:42
The five-year old daughter of imprisoned British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has returned to the UK from Iran to start school.
Gabriella Zaghari-Ratcliffe had had spent three and a half years living in Iran with her grandparents, visiting her British-Iranian mother in the Evin Prison in Tehran when the Iranian authorities would allow.
She returned home today, beaming as she hugged her father Richard Ratcliffe, who she barely remembers. Mr Ratcliffe has been campaigning for his wife to be released from prison. The parents have decided Gabriella should return home to the UK so she can start school.
Charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from West Hampstead, London has been serving a five-year prison sentence since 2016 after she was accused of spying - a charge she strongly denies.
She is imprisoned at Tehran's notorious Evin Prison that has been accused of committing "serious human rights abuses".
Gabriella has visited her mother at least once a week since her arrest in April 2016.
Her father Richard said it had been a "long journey" to having her home.
Mr Ratcliffe said: "Gabriella came back to us late at night, a bit uncertain seeing those she only remembered from the phone.
"Now she is peacefully sleeping next to me. And I am just watching.
"It has been a long journey to have her home, with bumps right until the end - and I am grateful to all those at the British Embassy and Iranian MFA who helped smooth all those last blockages.
"Of course the job is not yet done until Nazanin is home," he added.
"It was a hard goodbye for Nazanin and all her family. But let us hope this homecoming unlocks another."
At a press conference on Friday, Richard Ratcliffe told reporters: “It’s a happy day, but it’s very tough for Nazanin. She did not want her daughter to return to the UK while she remains in Iran. But Gabriella has been very brave, and told mummy that she’ll see her back in London.
Brave 5-year-old Gabriella Zaghari-Ratcliffe makes an appearance at a press conference in Westminster following her return to the UK. She is cutting a cake while sitting on her father Richard’s knee. pic.twitter.com/NsQrWoY4SM— Lucy Hough (@lucyhough33) October 11, 2019
Speaking about the prime minister, Mr Radcliffe said: “We have been caught in the middle of a government fight, which is not ours to solve. We looked to Boris to be a hero when he was Foreign Secretary, and we will be looking to him again now.
"We have requested a meeting, and will issue that request again.”
After 1,300 days in Iran, away from her father and being brought up in an Iranian household, Gabriella's ability to speak English is severely diminished and she will have to relearn how to communicate with her father.
She is now separated from her mother, leaving behind the life she has known since she was a toddler.
In an open letter, published in October, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe wrote about how weekly visits from her daughter had sustained her during her imprisonment.
Revealing that Gabriella would be returning to the UK to start school, she wrote that the thought of being unable to hold her child was "the deepest torture of them all".
"Those brief minutes might be the shortest of cuddles, but without doubt the most beautiful and uplifting cuddles in the whole world," she wrote.
In her letter, Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe said she was a "pawn in the hands of politicians - abroad and in Iran - to reach their goals in their games of chess".
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab described the letter as "heart-breaking" and said Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe's detainment was "unjustifiable and unacceptable".
The family's MP Tulip Siddiq said: "Richard and Nazanin have made a decision that no family should have to make.
"It is heart-warming to see Gabriella reunited with her father after 1,300 days in Iran, but heart-breaking that she is separated from her mother Nazanin.
Late last night, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s daughter, Gabriella, came home after more than 1300 days in Iran. She is now reunited with her dad Richard, but her mum remains a hostage in prison in Iran. The fight to #FreeNazanin continues. pic.twitter.com/Uapz3OCaCG— Tulip Siddiq (@TulipSiddiq) October 11, 2019
"Iran must end their hostage diplomacy and release my innocent constituent. Britain should also solve its long running debt issue with Iran.
"Nazanin is at breaking point, and today is yet another reminder that she has been failed at the very highest levels of government," added the Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn in London.