Husband of British-Iranian Hostage on Hunger Strike

Friday, November 5, 2021, marks the 13th day of Richard Ratcliffe's hunger strike. Speaking to the Guardian, he said that this time, it is more visceral. "It's smaller, darker, more pointed. I'm saying things I wouldn't have said two years ago," he added. Ratcliffe's hunger strike is aimed at pressuring the British government to take action in releasing his wife.

Richard Ratcliffe, an accountant by trade, is on a journey to help his wife, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who was accused of conspiring against Iran's Islamic Republic. She was arrested in 2016 along with three other individuals when she visited Iran to see her relatives. Zaghari-Ratcliffe is a British-Iranian citizen who was the project manager for Thomson Reuters Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Reuters News Agency when she was arrested.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe is one of the few incarcerated individuals with dual-citizenship held by Iran as "hostages" in its fight against western countries. She completed her five-year sentence on March 7, 2021. Still, She was suspiciously given additional charges, in what the Guardian calls a parallel with Josef K's plight, the main character of Franz Kafka's The Trial.

Zaghari-Ratcliffe hoped to reach the acquittal stage when she was informed of the new charges, making her unable to return to her husband and daughter in London.

Sleeping in a freezing condition while camped in a tent in front of the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO), Ratcliffe's message is different this time. He wants the government to say that his prolonged hunger strike is "not a stunt, but rather a warning shot."

Ratcliffe's hunger strike started on October 24th, Sunday, three weeks after his wife lost the appeal to her conviction by an Iranian court. "The status quo is unacceptable," Ratcliffe said, disillusioned with how the British government is handling his wife's case. Ratcliffe noted that things began slowing down when Boris Johnson became the prime minister. He called Boris' action "managed waiting." "There is no strategy to get Naz home," he added.

Ratcliffe's last conversation with Liz Truss, the Foreign Secretary, left him deflated and dumbfounded. He said there was no sense of direction with what the government's response would be.

According to Ratcliffe, what frustrates him the most is the government's lack of a plan to acknowledge the £400 million demanded by Iran for the supposed undelivered tank ordered by the Iranian government. The UK government admits that it did not deliver any tanks but declines to pay for what Iran is asking.

The vice president of Iran being wined and dined at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow exacerbated Ratcliffe's frustration. "It's the complicity, pretending the world can just go on as normal," he said bitterly. He plans to continue until the government takes concrete actions to force Iran to release his wife.

Already on his 16th day of hunger strike, Ratcliffe's previous attempt was 15 days long. He said he has started seeing the physical "effects and has very cold hands and feet." "We are now into uncharted territory," he added.

As of the writing of this article, Ratcliffe is still on a hunger strike. The British government had not released any official statement.

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