Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe tells of ‘constant worry’ for family in Iran

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratclifee has told of how she has a “constant worry” about her family in Iran, saying she cannot return to the country where she was imprisoned for years.

She also revealed how it had been “very hard to adjust” after returning to the UK following six years in an Iranian prison.

She was detained in 2016 and only returned to the UK in March 2022, but said she now jokes with friends about her time in captivity.

But she said: “Prison will change you forever.”

She and her husband spoke about their ordeal, and the campaign for her release, in a session at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in Edinburgh.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe said: “When we gather together with my friends I tell jokes about prison, which is strange because prison is a bad place, it is a very grim, bleak experience.

“But over time you forget the bad parts of it and you remember the jokes and the funny things.”

She added she had “underestimated how tough freedom would be” after being released.

She said: “I came out, I had to rebuild my relationship with our family, and with the neighbourhood and community and society.

“I am a different person, Richard has changed, my daughter is nine. When I left her she wasn’t even two, so we are very different people.”

She continued: “I was hoping I would be in a better place in terms of recovery, but with what is happening in Iran and the Middle East… there are a lot of external factors that stop me from feeling like a normal person and getting on with my life.”

She said that “at the moment there is no return” for her to Iran, where she still has family

She added: “My family is still in Iran, given what is happening in Iran… things are much more complicated.

“There’s very little we can do in terms of talking, video calls and things. I can’t really talk to them at all.

“It is a constant worry about my country, my family, my parents, my friends.”

Mr Ratcliffe, who went on hunger strike twice as part of the campaign for his wife’s release, meanwhile told the conference there should be a “right to consular protection” for British citizens who get into trouble overseas.

He said: “Currently there is no right to consular protection, you as a British citizen have no rights to be protected by your government. It is at the discretion of the minister, the discretion of the Crown.

“Which means it is unfair. If you are noisy enough, difficult enough you will get noticed and you will get protected.

“If you don’t have that… you could be marginalised.”

Mr Ratcliffe added: “If you are being unfairly imprisoned or tortured overseas that is when you need your government the most.”

Help in such situations “shouldn’t be at the discretion of individual ministers”, he insisted.