The husband of jailed British mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe is ready to buy a Christmas tree and put up the decoration – but not unless his wife and daughter are home from Iran by next Monday.
Richard Ratcliffe believes there is ‘still a chance’ she may be released from an Iranian prison in time for a dream Christmas together in London.
Mr Ratcliffe said his wife, who was arrested in 2016 during a holiday visit to show their daughter Gabriella to her parents, imagines her homecoming clearly from her Iranian cell.
Last year she was jailed for five years over spying allegation and was warned it could be doubled after the Iranians said she was trying to topple the regime.
Richard Ratcliffe, pictured holding a drawing sent from Iran by his daughter, believes there is ‘still a chance’ his wife Nazanin may be released from an Iranian prison in time for a dream Christmas together
Richard Ratcliffe (pictured with his wife and daughter before Nazanin’s incarceration) had only been allowed to talk to his wife twice a week until Boris Johnson arrived in Iran to discuss her case
Family photos in their home in London where they hope to be reunited as soon as possible
Mr Ratcliffe will not get a tree or any Christmas decorations until he learns if his family will be back in London for next week
Mr Ratcliffe, from Hampstead, north-west London, has not lost hope of having his wife and daughter back in the UK by December 25, and said he plans for the three of them to go and buy a tree on Christmas Eve.
Since the Foreign Secretary’s trip, conditions for his wife – recently described as on the verge of a breakdown while imprisoned in Tehran – have dramatically improved
‘It feels like there’s still a chance. It certainly feels it’s important for me to say that to Nazanin, to keep that hope alive,’ he told the Press Association.
‘There’s not much hint of Christmas around the house just yet. It’s all on hold.
‘I’ve seen where we’re going to buy the Christmas tree and I’ve got the box of decorations in the back of the wardrobe.’
Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe is serving a five-year sentence over allegations, which she denies, of plotting to overthrow the Tehran government.
Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson has said he had ‘worthwhile’ discussions concerning Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe and other British-Iranian dual nationals being held in Iran when he visited the country earlier this month.
While he said he did not want to raise false hopes, he believed his messages had been received and understood by Iranian officials.
The ‘best case scenario’ would be if Mrs Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who turns 39 on Boxing Day, and Gabriella, now three and a half, fly home towards the end of this week, Mr Ratcliffe said.
‘What she wants to do is just sit down and have a cup of tea and just be at home and rediscover her flat. And it’s that idea of being normal again.
‘What we’ll do is we’ll go down to the park just at the end and they’re selling Christmas trees, and we’ll bring the Christmas tree back.
‘On Christmas Eve, at the last minute, we’ll decorate the tree, which I’m sure Gabriella will thoroughly enjoy,’ he said.
Richard Ratcliffe and his wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been jailed in Iran, on display at their home in north London
Boris Johnson met Iranian Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Ali Shamkhani last weekend, as he made a fresh diplomatic push for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release
Mr Ratcliffe, 42, said his wife imagines the moment the family are reunited, and thinks about whether Gabriella, who is being looked after by her grandmother in Iran, will run to her father when she sees him.
‘Nazanin really keeps alive the outside, the future, the happiness … visualising what it was like on the last moment we saw each other, visualising what it will be like on the first moment we see each other again,’ he said.
Mr Ratcliffe said he does not think about it in the same way, saying: ‘Emotionally I’m built in a different way. I want to keep battling and when it’s time to enjoy that, then I’ll enjoy that.
‘It’s something about hope, not making that hope so real that then the disappointment is as well.’
He added: ‘It’s kind of like a dream I suppose, almost in terms of describing it, and part of me with campaigning is not to really visualise it too clearly, just in case it doesn’t happen.’
Speaking of the relief he hopes is ahead of him, he said: ‘Knowing that that battle is over. Of course there’ll be others to come in terms of the recovering, the recuperation and everything else.
‘But the chance to celebrate together, and yes, it’s just the being together, and in some ways for me it’s the quietness of being together that is the thing I look forward to.’
Mr Ratcliffe said nothing was certain, and reflecting on the possibility of another Christmas without Nazanin and Gabriella, he said there would be a feeling of loss but he would pick himself up and continue campaigning.
‘I can’t rest yet,’ he said.
Richard Ratcliffe says he’s ‘walking taller today’ following a relaxation of his wife Nazanin’s jail conditions in Tehran which mean the couple can talk daily and her Iranian family can visit. Pictured: Nazanin and her daughter Gabriella, now three
Life has dramatically improved for incarcerated Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe following Boris Johnson’s trip to Iran as the British mother held for nearly two years has seen her prison conditions relaxed.
Her husband Richard Ratcliffe had only been allowed to talk to his wife twice a week until Boris Johnson arrived in Iran to discuss her case last Saturday. He can now speak to her every day.
Since the Foreign Secretary’s trip, conditions for his wife – recently described as on the verge of a breakdown while imprisoned in Tehran – have dramatically improved.
For the first time in nearly two years, all of her Iranian relatives will visit Nazanin in prison tomorrow – her daughter Gabriella, three, both of Nazanin’s parents, two sisters and a brother, instead of her mother and daughter as normal.
The family is clinging onto fresh Iranian media reports that she no longer faces fresh spying charges following the media storm ignited when Boris Johnson mistakenly claimed she’d been in the country teaching journalists when she was arrested.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has also been officially referred to as a dual national for the first time.