26 December 1978
United Kingdom (2013-present)
|Occupation||Journalism charity administrator|
|Known for||Current imprisonment in Iran (July 2019)|
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe (née Zaghari, Persian: نازنین زاغری; born 26 December 1978) is an Iranian-British dual citizen who has been detained in Iran since 3 April 2016. In early September 2016 she was sentenced to five years' imprisonment after being found guilty of "plotting to topple the Iranian government". She was temporarily released on 17 March 2020.
The prosecutor general of Tehran had stated in October 2017 that she was being held for running "a BBC Persian online journalism course which was aimed at recruiting and training people to spread propaganda against Iran".
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was born and raised in Tehran and studied English literature at the University of Tehran, before becoming an English teacher. Following the 2003 Bam earthquake she worked as a translator in the relief effort for the Japan International Cooperation Agency. She later worked for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and then moved to the World Health Organization as a communications officer.
In 2007, Zaghari-Ratcliffe moved to the UK after receiving a scholarship to study for a Masters in Communication Management at London Metropolitan University. Shortly after her arrival in the UK she met her future husband through mutual friends. They married in August 2009 in Winchester and their daughter was born in June 2014. Zaghari-Ratcliffe would frequently return to Iran enabling her parents to see her daughter. When travelling to Iran she would always do so on her Iranian passport, as required by Iranian law. Zaghari-Ratcliffe used her British passport for all other international travel.
Arrest and trial
On 17 March 2016, Zaghari-Ratcliffe travelled to visit her family for Nowruz (Iranian New Year) with her 22-month-old daughter. On 3 April 2016, members of Iran's Revolutionary Guard arrested her at the Imam Khomeini Airport as she and her daughter were about to board a flight back to the UK. Her daughter's British passport was confiscated during the arrest, but later returned, and she remained in Iran under the care of her maternal grandparents so she could visit her mother.
The exact reason for her arrest was initially unclear, though according to Amnesty International it is believed to be related to the 2014 imprisonment of several Iranian technology news website employees. The head of Kerman province's justice department, Ali Tavakoli, said they had participated in projects run by the BBC and received funds from London:
"This gang was running a number of projects and plans for anti-revolutionary Iranians based abroad, especially for the BBC Persian, under the guise of legitimate activities. Financial aid for this group was usually provided from London under the pretext of charitable donations. The director of the team was an individual who has served the BBC as a mentor and teacher in a number of countries such as Malaysia, India and Afghanistan and his travels to these countries were paid for by British intelligence services."
Zaghari-Ratcliffe has worked for the BBC World Service Trust (now called BBC Media Action), an international charity that provided training courses to Iranian citizen journalists and bloggers in its Iran Media Development Project's ZigZag magazine and associated radio programme. In 2014, several graduates were convicted and sentenced by Iran to up to 11 years in jail for their participation in these courses.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe worked for the BBC World Service Trust between February 2009 and October 2010, "in a junior capacity as a Training Assistant" according to the CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, before moving to the Thomson Reuters Foundation. BBC Media Action described her role as "junior and purely administrative".
According to Yadollah Movahed, the head of the Justice Department in the Iranian city of Kerman, and as reported by the Iranian news network Press TV, Nazanin was arrested "over her involvement in post-election riots that engulfed Tehran and some other cities in 2009". Movahed said Zaghari was among the suspects who "conducted activities against the security of the country by designing websites and carrying out campaigns in the media” during 2009. According to Movahed, Nazanin was not arrested for activity inside Iran or for activity during her 2016 holiday to Iran: “Some members of the group were outside Iran, including the suspect Nazanin Zaghari”. Mashregh News, an outlet close to Iranian authorities, pointed to her alleged involvement with the human rights organizations Women Living Under Muslim Laws and Hivos as a motive for her arrest.
According to Press TV in June 2016, "The IRGC headquarters in Kerman province announced that Nazanin Zaghari had been identified after a large intelligence operation. She was one of the liaison officers of networks hostile to Iran abroad. According to this source, she was responsible for several missions, and conducted her criminal activities under the direction of media and intelligence services of foreign governments."
In early September 2016, she was sentenced to five years in prison "for allegedly plotting to topple the Iranian regime." The prosecutor general of Tehran stated in October 2017 that she was imprisoned for running "...a BBC Persian online journalism course which was aimed at recruiting and training people to spread propaganda against Iran". PressTV in 2017 reported she had been "found guilty of spying and spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic", describing the activities involved as her BBC World Service Trust work:
She identified potential Iranian recruits and invited them to attend the training courses, received and reviewed their resumes, managed financial affairs related to the courses in Malaysia and India, picked trainers, assessed the performance of the participants and managed the ZigZag Academy’s websites.
On 23 August 2018, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released on temporary licence for three days, which is standard practice prior to lengthier releases. However, Zaghari-Ratcliffe suffered from panic attacks after returning to prison, and regretted having been given the temporary release. Her husband said the temporary licence was a "cruel game" subject to conditions including the monitoring of her movements.
In March 2019, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) granted Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection, raising the status of her case from a consular matter to a dispute between the two governments. Iran argues the designation is contrary to international law, the Master Nationality Rule, with Iran's ambassador in London stating "Governments may only exercise such protection for own nationals, ... Iran does not recognise dual nationality".
On 11 October 2019, Zaghari-Ratcliffe's daughter returned to her father in the United Kingdom to start school.
At the height of COVID-19 pandemic in Iran in March 2020, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was released on a temporary basis. She is living at her parents’ house in Tehran, and must wear an electronic tag and remain within 300 metres of the house. She is able to make video calls for several hours a day to her husband and daughter. Her parole was extended until 18 April. Her release was again extended in April, to 20 May according to her husband. Her family said on May 20 that her release had been extended indefinitely.
On 8 September 2020, Iranian state media said that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was facing new charges. On 13 September, her trial was postponed. It was scheduled for 2 November in October. No British officials were allowed to observe it despite repeated requests.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe's sentence is due to end on 7 March 2021.
Prisoners swap dispute
24th April 2019, Iranian Foreign Minister suggested an official swap between Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Negar Ghodskani, an Iranian citizen being held in Australia on a U.S. extradition warrant. Britain has rejected a prisoner-swap proposal by Iran's foreign minister, calling it a "vile" diplomatic maneuver. 
On 7 May 2016, Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband Richard Ratcliffe launched an online petition urging both the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Iran's supreme leader to take appropriate action to secure the safe return of his wife and daughter. The petition now has over 3.5 million supporters in 155 countries. Through his lawyers, Richard Ratcliffe has pressed for any settlement of the IMS deal to be paid to an entity other than the Iranian Government's defence ministry, alternatively that the dispute be settled in humanitarian aide rather than cash, thereby circumventing EU sanctions. 24th April 2019, the Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif suggested an official swap between Nazanin, and Negar Ghodskani, an Iranian citizen being held in Australia on a U.S. extradition warrant.
Boris Johnson intervention
On 1 November 2017, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said "When we look at what Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was doing, she was simply teaching people journalism, as I understand it, at the very limit." These remarks appear to have put her at risk, prompting condemnation from politicians across the spectrum including Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, leading to calls for Boris Johnson to be sacked. A central part of Zaghari-Ratcliffe's defence was that she was there on a holiday and never worked to train journalists in the country.
Her employer, Thomson Reuters Foundation, called on Johnson to "immediately correct the serious mistake he made" in this statement. They added "She is not a journalist and has never trained journalists at the Thomson Reuters Foundation". Four days later, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was returned to court in Iran where the Foreign Secretary's statement was cited as evidence against her.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe was thought likely to appear in court again on 10 December 2017 to face additional charges relating to her work for the BBC World Service Trust; however, Iranian court officials released a statement that no new charges had been raised and these reports were false. Boris Johnson visited Tehran on 9 December 2017, raising the case of Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
The United Nations has on several occasions called for Zaghari-Ratcliffe's release. On 7 October 2016, the United Nations rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, called on Iran to immediately release Zaghari-Ratcliffe. The call was repeated a year later by Shaheed's successor, Asma Jahangir, as well as by José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: "We consider that Ms. Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been arbitrarily deprived of her liberty and that her right to a fair trial before an independent and impartial tribunal has been violated … These are flagrant violations of Iran’s obligations under international law". The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention had also formally called for her immediate release in its Opinion 28/2016, adopted in August 2016.
In June 2019, both Richard and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe went on hunger strike, in protest at Nazanin's imprisonment, with Richard Ratcliffe camping outside the Iranian Embassy in London. They both ended the hunger strike on 29 June 2019, after 15 days.
In February 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread to Iran, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was suspected of falling ill with COVID-19 from the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Her family called on the UK and Iranian governments to ensure that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was tested for the virus and received proper medical treatment. However, Iran's judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili said she did not have coronavirus and was in "good health". Gholamhossein also described reports of her infection as "propaganda".
On 17 March, she was temporarily freed for two weeks, which was later extended indefinitely. After her new trial was postponed in September, the Foreign Office called for her to be permanently released. Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, called it nonsense that the trial had been moved, saying she had already faced an unjust trial. She accused the Iranian government of playing cruel political games on her and asked the British government to work harder for her release.
In December 2020, in relation to Zaghari-Ratcliffe's imprisonment it was widely reported that British citizens arrested abroad do not have a right to government help or protection even if they are being tortured. However, in normal circumstances, British citizens abroad are eligible for consular assistance in times of need. The legal difficulty for the British Foreign Office in this particular case is that Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in the country of her birth citizenship and in a country which does not recognise dual nationality for Iranian citizens. Furthermore, during her visits to Iran, Zaghari-Ratcliffe enters the country using her Iranian passport. The FCDO have acknowledged the risk to dual nationals of arrest and detention in its travel advice to persons travelling to Iran.
- Iran–United Kingdom relations
- List of foreign nationals detained in Iran
- Kamal Foroughi
- Ghoncheh Ghavami
- Marjan Davari
- "Legal Opinion: Violations of International Human Rights Obligations by the Islamic Republic of Iran" (PDF). 16 October 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
- "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe spends 40th birthday in Iranian jail". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 19 June 2019. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
- "UK-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe 'jailed on secret charges'". BBC News. 10 September 2016. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
- Trew Cairo, Bel (10 October 2017). "British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe facing 16 more years in Iranian jail". The Times. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
- "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe temporarily released from Iranian prison amid coronavirus outbreak fears". 17 March 2020.
- Saeed Kamali Dehghan (6 November 2017). "Boris Johnson 'mistake' could harm case for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, say family". The Guardian. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
- "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: The British-Iranian mother jailed in Tehran". www.shropshirestar.com. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
- "Mother jailed in Tehran". Belfast Telegraph. 8 September 2020. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
- "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Legal Opinion" (PDF). 16 October 2017. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
- "'New evidence' against Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe - Iran - THE BARON". www.thebaron.info. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
- "Husband of Iranian-British Citizen Held in Iran Calls Her Detainment 'Outrageous' and 'Cruel'". International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. 10 May 2016.
- Saeed Kamali Dehghan (9 May 2016). "Briton pleads with Iran to release arrested wife and daughter". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
- Ferguson, Donna (15 October 2017). "Husband of Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, jailed in Iran, tells of strain of separation". The Observer. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
- Dehghan, Saeed Kamali (10 July 2014). "Why isn't the BBC protesting about Aliasghar Honarmand's jailing in Iran?". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
- "History and links to the BBC". BBC. BBC. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
- Anna Godfrey, Michael Thelwall, Mahmood Eneyat (2008). Generating new media and new participation in Iran: The Case of ZigZag (PDF) (Report). BBC World Service Trust. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 November 2017.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
- Saeed Kamali Dehghan (22 January 2017). "UK woman imprisoned in Iran has conviction upheld in appeals court". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
- Saeed Kamali Dehghan (20 June 2014). "Iran technology news website staff jailed for alleged links to BBC". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
- "Iran sentences British charity worker to 5 years in jail for espionage". Deutsche Welle. 22 January 2017. Retrieved 14 November 2017.
- Nursey, Caroline (5 July 2016). "In the matter of Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe and Iran" (PDF). BBC Media Action. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 November 2017.
- "Zaghari arrested over links to 2009 Iran riots: Official". PressTV. 26 June 2016. Retrieved 29 December 2017.
- Erdbrink, Thomas (15 June 2016). "Iran Accuses Thomson Reuters Charity Official of Sedition". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 18 June 2016. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
- "Iran: une espionne arrêtée". PressTV (in French). 16 June 2016. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
- "Iran Judiciary official rejects reports on upcoming release of Zaghari". PressTV. Iran. 22 December 2017. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
- "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Iran grants temporary release". BBC News. 23 August 2018. Retrieved 23 August 2018.
- Rushton, Simon (2 September 2018). "Jailed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe regrets getting a temporary taste of freedom". i News. Retrieved 10 August 2019.
- Wintour, Patrick (8 March 2019). "Foreign Office grants Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic protection". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
- Josie Ensor; Ahmed Vahdat (8 March 2019). "Iran says UK's diplomatic protection for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe 'against international law'". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 8 March 2019.
- "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: Daughter of Briton jailed in Iran back in UK". BBC. 11 October 2019. Retrieved 11 October 2019.
- "Iran rejects conditional release for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe". Iranian Diaspora. Retrieved 22 December 2019.
- "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe freed for two weeks by Iran". The Times. 17 March 2020. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
- Lovett, Samuel (21 April 2020). "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe temporary prison release extended as coronavirus pandemic continues". The Independent. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
- "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe prison leave extended as coronavirus outbreak continues". Independent. 29 March 2020.
- Lovett, Samuel (21 April 2020). "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe temporary prison release extended as coronavirus pandemic continues". The Independent. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
- Peltier, Elian (20 May 2020). "Iran Extends Temporary Release of British-Iranian Woman". New York Times. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
- "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe faces new charge while on temporary release says Iran state media". The Telegraph. 8 September 2020. Retrieved 8 September 2020.
- Schaverein, Anna (13 September 2020). "Trial Is Postponed of British-Iranian Woman Held in Iran". New York Times. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
- Wintour, Patrick (28 October 2020). "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to stand trial on fresh charges in Iran next week". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
- Wintour, Patrick (2 November 2020). "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe avoids being returned to jail". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
- Wintour, Patrick (31 January 2021). "Foreign Office tells Richard Ratcliffe to keep quiet as wife's release date nears". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
- "Britain Calls Iran's Prisoner-Swap Offer 'Vile'". Radio Liberty. 2 November 2020. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
- "Free Nazanin Ratcliffe". Change.org. Retrieved 14 January 2018.
- editor, Patrick Wintour Diplomatic (28 May 2019). "MoD and Foreign Office clash over £400m debt linked to Zaghari-Ratcliffe release". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 30 May 2019.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- "Husband of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe urges government to use aid to help secure her release". The Independent. 2 June 2019. Retrieved 3 June 2019.
- "Iran offers Zaghari-Ratcliffe prisoner swap". 24 April 2019. Retrieved 4 June 2019.
- "Oral evidence: Oral Evidence from the Foreign Secretary November 2017, HC 538". House of Commons. UK Parliament. 1 November 2017. Q73. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
- Helm, Toby; Quinn, Ben; Dehghan, Saeed Kamali (12 November 2017). "Sack Boris Johnson for shaming our nation, Jeremy Corbyn tells PM". The Observer. ISSN 0029-7712. Retrieved 12 November 2017.
- "Boris Johnson admits Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe comments 'could have been clearer' as Brit faces extended jail spell". The Independent.
- "Fears for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe after Boris Johnson remark". BBC News. 6 November 2017. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
- Oliphant, Roland (6 November 2017). "Boris Johnson 'mistake' risks fresh prison term in Iran for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, family warn". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
- Bulman, May (23 November 2017). "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to face second charge of 'spreading propaganda' in Iranian court". The Independent. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
- Whiteside, Philip (26 November 2017). "Iran makes fresh allegations against jailed Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe". Sky News. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
- "Iranian Judiciary Denies Sunday Court Trial for Zaghari". Kayhan International. 10 December 2017. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
- Sara Elizabeth Williams (11 December 2017). "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe hails 'light at the end of the tunnel' after Boris Johnson's Iran visit". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 16 December 2017.
- "U.N. rights envoy urges Iran to free three dual nationals". Reuters. 7 October 2016. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
- "OHCHR | Iran: UN rights experts urge immediate release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe after fresh charges". www.ohchr.org. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
- "After Hunger Strike, This Is What's Next For Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's Fight For Justice". HuffPost UK. 3 July 2019. Retrieved 8 July 2019.
- "Brexit Party MEPs abstain from vote calling for release of detained British citizen in Iran". The Independent. 19 September 2019. Retrieved 4 November 2019.
- Busby, Mattha (16 June 2019). "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's husband: I will join hunger strike for as long as I can". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 25 June 2019.
- "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe ends Iran hunger strike after 15 days". BBC News. 29 June 2019. Retrieved 30 June 2019.
- Busby, Mattha; Safi, Michael (29 February 2020). "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe suspected of having coronavirus". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 1 March 2020. Retrieved 29 February 2020.
- "Iran denies jailed British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has coronavirus". Al Arabiya English. 3 March 2019.
- "British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe temporarily freed for two weeks". Al Arabiya English. 18 March 2020.
- "Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: New trial postponed in Iran". BBC. 13 September 2020. Retrieved 29 November 2020.
- Sanghani, Radhika (30 December 2020). "Richard Ratcliffe: 'Nazanin is being held hostage and the British government needs to stop walking away'". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
- "Zaghari-Ratcliffe: UK 'starting to look weak' over failure to protect citizens, says Hunt". the Guardian. 29 December 2020. Retrieved 9 January 2021.
- "FCDO: Support for British nationals abroad: A guide" (PDF). Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. 1 January 2021. Retrieved 9 January 2021.