This is an interview with Richard Ratcliffe, which was conducted in March 2021. Since then, Nazanin Zaghari Ratcliffe, now aged 43, has been released and flown back to the UK, to be reunited with Richard, and their daughter Gabriella, aged seven.
It’s been another nerve-racking week for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, her husband Richard and their six-year-old daughter Gabriella. Last Sunday, Nazanin completed her five-year sentence for spurious charges of espionage in Iran and had her ankle tag removed, releasing her from house arrest. She has always denied the charges.
But that hasn’t spelt the end of this nightmare, as news that she will have to go to court to face a second set of charges on 14 March quickly followed. And she still hasn’t had her passport returned.
Hopefully, the end is at least in sight, but her sentence not only robbed the family of five years together - Richard says she is worried the time they lost means they’ve missed their opportunity to have a second child.
Her fertility was very low. She got very, very upset.
‘She always wanted to come back and have another baby, having lost out on Gabriella’s childhood,’ Richard told Grazia this week. ‘And obviously, you know, she was taken age 37, she's now 42. Those are quite critical years to lose if you're trying for a baby.’ [edit: this interview took place in March 2021, the headline has been updated to reflect the fact that Nazanin is now 43 years old].
In the summer, she had her fertility tested while at her parents’ house in Tehran, where she has been staying on house arrest. ‘Her fertility was very low. She got very, very upset,’ Richard adds. The results of the ovarian reserve test showed she had less than 15% chance of having another child.
In October 2019, Richard was reunited with Gabriella for the first time since April 2016. Gabriella was one when she and Nazanin were stopped by guards at the airport in Iran as they flew to visit Nazanin's family. She spent three-and-a-half years living with her maternal grandparents in Iran, visiting Nazanin in prison, before she was able to fly home to be with Richard in London.
Richard, 46, says he tries not to think about whether they will be able to have a second child. 'There's a way in which these last five years have been a hiatus in our lives - part of me tries to ignore their impact.' he says. 'Like, when Gabriella first came back it took me a while to adust to the fact that she was no longer one and three quarters, but time had moved on. So, until it is definite that she cannot, then I'm holding out hope. That 15% chance the doctor gave her last year might just come through.'
‘There's a way I think we're all built to kind of get our old lives back and it takes time to accept that the world has moved on. Our bodies have moved on. We as a family have moved on, and to adjust to that and find your feet with that. She will go back to work, there will be an adjustment, there will be lots of other bumps,’ he says.
According to a medical report sent by the human rights charity Redress to the UK government this week, Nazanin needs urgent treatment for her mental health after she was interrogated for hours, often blindfolded, while in solitary confinement at the beginning of her sentence.
‘Typically, people need a bit of adjustment when they come back, almost like the bends, it takes a while to adjust back. We’ll need some counselling as a family,’ Richard adds.
In terms of how life will look when she does get home to London, Richard says this will ‘absolutely be a one-way ticket. That was true from the moment she was taken,’ he adds. ‘No doubt, there will come a point in her life where she will really miss Iran. But no, by doing this to her they've taken Iran away from her forever.’