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Nazanin play performed at Houses of Parliament

'The play is reaching out to a different audi­ence. The play changes people when they watch it.'

29 October, 2018 — By Tom Foot

THE gruelling trauma experienced by Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe – the charity worker locked up in Iran – and her husband’s campaign to secure her release was hammered home to politicians in a play performed at the House of Commons.

The production, called Nazanin’s Story, which has been touring the country, tells the story of Nazanin’s imprisonment in Iran since April 2016 from the perspective of the West Hampstead mother and her husband, Richard.

On Tuesday night, in an event organised by Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq and theatre group Howell Productions, Mr Ratcliffe sat watching in the front row. After the show, he said: “I had to look away at times, as it’s too close to home. It is a tough play to watch, very hard to watch at times. I think it’s important that we get a happy ending, and we can move on.”

Mr Ratcliffe spoke about the importance of “hope” and how if he could have one wish it would be watching his wife sleep, or making jam together.

He said: “You know when you speak to journalists they are always ‘what’s happened? How do you feel?’ That is all they ever ask. So it’s nice to tell the whole story – you can hear the poetry in her [Nazanin’s] voice. The hopeful parts, they keep me going and going. The play has been really important. “There are people here tonight that have been here since the start. That is what the campaign is about. When the campaign started, I didn’t realise at first, but that is a side to it that has been so important.”

Tulip Siddiq MP with Richard Ratcliffe

Nazanin has been detained in Iran since April 2016. She was arrested with her then two-year-old daughter, Gabriella, at Tehran airport while visiting family and accused by the Iranian regime of plotting and espionage. Sentenced to five years in September 2016, she was recently released for three days to spend a little time with her daughter.

Her story has taken many turns that are recorded in the play, including former foreign secretary Boris Johnson’s catastrophic claim that she had been “training journalists”.

MPs Preet Gill, Alex Sobel, Ben Bradshaw, Catherine West, Baroness Northover, and staff from 15 other MPs’ offices were joined by represen­tatives from Amnesty, Redress, Thomson Reuters Foundation and Corruption Watch UK in the audience.

Ms Siddiq said: “The foreign office often talk about Nazanin as if she is a statistic – they say there are this many foreign nationals, and that many get freed, that sort of thing. They try and lump Nazanin in with a bunch of prisoners. This is a real story. It’s someone who has a family. We don’t know about the others, but we do know about Nazanin.”

She added: “The play is reaching out to a different audi­ence. The play changes people when they watch it. It reaches a different and younger audience, and reaches out to people on a human level. There are a lot of MPs who are interested in it.”

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