Detained charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe needs mental health treatment


British-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been held in Iran since 2016, is suffering from major depression and PTSD and is badly in need of urgent treatment, according to a medical report by a charity.

The report, commissioned by the human rights charity Redress, was sent to the UK government on Thursday.

The charity worker who is under house arrest faces a new court hearing in Tehran on Sunday, a week after her ankle tag was removed. Despite her sentence coming to an end, she is still waiting to return to the UK to be reunited with her family.

It is not clear whether Sunday’s court hearing will be used to block her return to the UK.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for her permanent release so she can return home to her husband and young daughter in the UK.

Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested in April 2016 while travelling to visit her parents in Iran with her British-born daughter, Gabriella, who is now six years old.

She was sentenced to five years in prison for membership of organisations working against the Iranian government, allegations which she has always denied.

The Redress report was based on a medical evaluation carried out virtually by doctors while Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was under house arrest towards the end of last year.

The report says she was interrogated for hours, often blindfolded, while in solitary confinement at the beginning of her sentence.

Neither Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe nor her husband Richard has felt able to read the report in full, but both feel that it is important to have her ordeal documented, giving the charity the go-ahead to share the details with the BBC.

In the medical evaluation, she also told doctors she suffered hair loss, had to listen to her female guard talking loudly to her child while separated from her own daughter, and developed OCD around washing.

According to the report, her post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and obsessive stress disorder are due to “extremely stressful, traumatising experiences in the prisons of Iran” and the uncertainty about her fate – and warns things could worsen without her being treated and reunited with her family in the UK.

Dr. Michele Heisler, medical director of Physicians for Human Rights, is one of the doctors who conducted the evaluation for the Independent Forensic Expert Group.

She described Mrs. Zaghari-Ratcliffe as a “remarkably resilient woman” who was “trying to keep hope, trying to be strong” during her evaluation.

But she said: “Her current situation continues the psychological torture. Although she has finished five years of being imprisoned, she faces on-going threat and uncertainty.”

“The threat of a second trial remains very real,” says Rupert Skilbeck of Redress, which acts as her and her husband’s legal representative.

“This report is evidence of the severe suffering that Nazanin has experienced in Iran due to the mistreatment suffered and the cruelty of a legal process that has never followed the rule of law, making it impossible for Nazanin to know when she will be reunited with her family.”

Her treatment, Redress says, clearly amounts to torture.

In a statement, the Foreign Office said: “Iran continues to put Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe through a cruel and intolerable ordeal. Nazanin must be allowed to return permanently to her family in the UK and we will continue to do all we can to achieve this.” (Source: BBC)