During the early hours of Thursday morning 17th March 2022, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe arrived back home in the UK. She was freed after being held hostage in Iran for almost 6 years. She’s a British citizen and a charity worker from West Hampstead, London. She was arrested by the Iranian IRGC on 3 April 2016 when she was on holiday in Tehran visiting her elderly parents with her one year old daughter, Gabriella. Almost six years later, three members of Nazanin’s family were there to greet her at the Royal Air Force base when she landed – her husband Richard Ratcliffe who’s campaigned tirelessly for her freedom and has been on this podcast many times, her now seven year old daughter Gabriella and Nazanin’s younger brother, Mohammad Zaghari.
Mohammad is one of the unsung heroes of the FreeNazanin campaign. He was in Tehran with Nazanin’s parents when she was arrested. He helped raise Gabriella for the three years she was in Iran separated from both parents. He brought Gabriella back to the UK in 2019 and had to leave his entire life in Iran behind because it was no longer safe for him to return home.
On this week’s episode, we have the honour of speaking to Mohammad himself. He talks about Nazanin coming back home and what it was like to be reunited with her after all these years. Mohammad also talks about dealing with the Iranian authorities when Nazanin was taken, the trauma he experienced, visiting her in prison with Gabriella, the pressure the IRGC puts on the families, the threats, life in the UK, the long recovery journey ahead and what’s next for him.
We also talk about the other hostages left behind in Iran, going public and Richard’s amazing campaigning. You’ll also hear voice messages from the loved ones of Nahid Taghavi, Jamshid Sharmahd, Fariba Adelkhah and Kamran Ghaderi – all innocent individuals from Germany, France and Austria still held in Iran. Their loved ones talk about how happy they are for Nazanin and her family as well as what needs to be done to Free Nahid, Free Jamshid, Free Fariba and Free Kamran.
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Nazanin Is free but other hostages remain in Iran | Pod Hostage Diplomacy
Daren Nair, Mohammad Zaghari, Sandrine Perrot, Harika Ghaderi, Mariam Claren, Gazelle Sharmahd
Daren Nair 00:05
Welcome to Pod Hostage Diplomacy. We work to free hostages and the unjustly detained around the world. Together with their families, we share their stories every week, and let you know how you can help bring them home. I'm Daren Nair, and I've had the honour of campaigning with many of these families for years. These are some of the most courageous and resilient people among us. People who have never given up hope, people who will never stop working to reunite their families. And we will be right there by their side until their loved ones are back home. Thank you for joining us. And now, let's meet this week's guest. Welcome to Pod Hostage Diplomacy. During the early hours of Thursday 17 March 2022, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe arrived back home in the UK and was reunited with her seven-year-old daughter, Gabriella, and her husband, Richard Ratcliffe. She was held hostage in Iran for almost six years. She's an innocent mother, a wife, and a charity worker from West Hampstead in London. Two former UK foreign secretaries, Jeremy Hunt and Jack Straw, have both called Nazanin a hostage. The current Chair of the UK Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat has called her a hostage. And, when asked by a journalist on TV whether or not Nazanin is a hostage, the current Deputy Prime Minister of the UK and foreign secretary at the time, Dominic Raab, stated that he can't argue against that characterisation. I've been campaigning closely with Nazanin's family to free her since 2016. Our very first episode was with Richard Ratcliffe and, including this one, we've done five more episodes about Nazanin on this podcast. I am so happy and so exhausted at the same time. If you saw the look on Nazanin's face when she hugged her husband and daughter for the first time in years, you will understand that there are simply no words to express how I'm feeling. To all the people who help free Nazanin, thank you. Thank you so much. Our guest today is one of my closest friends. He's practically a brother to me. He's one of the unsung heroes of the Free Nazanin campaign. His name is Mohammad Zaghari. And he's Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's younger brother. Mohammad, you know how happy I am for you, for your sister, Nazanin, for Richard, for Gabriella and for the rest of your family. Congratulations and thank you for taking the time to speak to us today.
Mohammad Zaghari 02:42
Thank you, Daren. Thank you and Hi to everyone.
Daren Nair 02:45
Now, Mohammed, I have no doubt that it's been both a very exciting and very exhausting week for you and your family. Can you please walk us through what happened from the moment you found out that Nazanin was coming back home to the point you were reunited at the Royal Air Force base where she landed, and you finally got to hug your elder sister for the first time in years.
Mohammad Zaghari 03:10
That's... that's a really stressful situation. It was really a stressful situation for us. Because we've been... we've been told that she's going home. But it took a long time till she jumped in a flight and the flight leave the airport in Tehran. And until she entered the Oman Muscat. Even we wouldn't believe that because it wasn't the first time this happens. We've been told three, four times back that she's been released, but she wasn't. So, we didn't we didn't trust them until we saw her in Muscat and the pictures, and then it was a time that now we can believe... we could believe that. She's coming home.
Daren Nair 04:09
And what was it like seeing her at the airport?
Mohammad Zaghari 04:13
Oh, yeah. We went to... The government provided a military plane for her to come back to London, and we went to military airport in the UK. And it was one in the morning, but every one of us just had energy that, you know, to see her. For me myself, the last time I saw her was in prison back in 2019. But for her and for... same for Gabriella. But for Richard, it was exactly six years. So, she left London 17th of March 2016. And she came back to London 17th of March 2022. So, exactly six years she was away from home, from Richard. But it was really emotional. I never forget. You know, there are some moments in everyone's life that, yeah, you never forget those moments. And one of them for me is the time that she cuddled Gabriella after two and a half years, and Richard after six years, at that airport. It was really emotional. We were tired. We were stressed. And I couldn't believe this is done, you know. Still... still, you know, even here, after a couple of days, I'm sitting there. Oh, yeah. It's done, and now six years passed. And, yeah, it's, you know, because we've been in this situation for six years. It's not easy to believe that, that she's now home. It's her home from today. But she couldn't come home yet because of... because she wanted to have her space with her husband and kid, but she will come home soon. But yeah, just end of the six years fighting. And it was on Thursday.
Daren Nair 06:30
I am so happy for you. And you know that. So when you say she's... hasn't come home yet, that's because she's basically in a safe house. Right? A safe place that...
Mohammad Zaghari 06:43
She's in a place that you want to just share the place with their own... have their own privacy. And to get ready to come back home.
Daren Nair 06:56
Yeah. No, I can completely understand that. So, you live in West Hampstead, London. There's a lot of noise. There's a lot of noise, a lot going on. You live in an apartment block. I'm sure many people will show up. Your neighbours are gonna show up wanting to say Hi, wanting to see you. Journalists will try to get photos of you. Everyone who's campaigned for you will want to meet you. So, I can imagine that she just needs some time alone. And that's great. Now, many people in the UK are already aware of Nazanin's case, Nazanin's story. But for those who aren't, can you please give them a brief summary of what happened?
Mohammad Zaghari 07:33
Yeah. So, just to be honest, there's not that much people who doesn't know this case, because it was loads of campaigning. Richard tirelessly did the campaign in the past six years, but when Nazanin came to Iran back in 17th March 2016 to see us, my parents, for Norouz holidays, Iranian New Year, she couldn't leave the country. They arrested her. What was... when was it? 17th?
Daren Nair 08:13
3rd April 2016 was the day she was arrested on the way home, right?
Mohammad Zaghari 08:17
Yeah, 3rd April. And then, yeah, they put Gabriella in my parents' hands at the airport. They took her. We've been told that she's coming home after a week. Nothing changed. Then we... they informed us they moved her to Kerman, 2,000 kilometres far from the... her parents city... us. And then they accused her for spying and doing the propaganda against the regime. You're doing. your overthrow against the regime. Soft overthrow if I'm correct, but all on media. So, we didn't... we've never received any written statement for those charges in the... in the court back in 2016. And then, the charge was five years. She finished five years. Then they reopened another case for her, so they charged her again. One year prison, and one year a travel ban. But yeah, she's home now. After six years, but it wasn't easy. It wasn't easy at all. I can't tell you what happens every minute or every second but, yeah. All done. All past.
Daren Nair 09:44
I'm sorry Nazanin had to go through that, Richard, Gabriella, you, your parents, everyone in your family, all her friends had to go through this. I'm so sorry for that. And... but like you said she's home. So basically, if you wanted to give a short answer on what happened, Nazanin and Gabriella went to Iran to visit you and your parents, her parents, Gabriella's grandparents in March 2016. And on the way home... She was on a holiday. She is a charity worker. She works for Thomson Reuters Foundation, but she was in Iran on holiday. Thomson Reuters Foundation does not operate in Iran. So, she was there just to visit Gabriella's grandparents, her parents. And, at the airport, when she was coming back home to the UK with Gabriella, who was one year old at the time, she was arrested by the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or the IRGC, and Gabriella was handed over. Gabriella was then handed over to your parents. And then she was detained. Nazanin was detained and, as you said, she was taken to Kerman. Kerman?
Mohammad Zaghari 10:58
Yes, they took her to Kerman and then they moved her from Kerman to Evin Prison after three months. So yeah, there are no even even [???] . She called after that three months and said she's... she's been freed, she's been released. And she was crying. And I never forget that time. Also, it was a first... it was a second time that they threatened us... that they, you know, put the family and everyone under pressure, with the false release to use. And I never forget that... that time that my mom called and she just crying, she was crying. I couldn't understand what she's talking on the phone. Jumped in a car and I went back home after 15 minutes, 20 minutes, and she said she's coming home which was 12 o'clock. Noon. Nothing changed. Nothing happens until 6pm. And then we receive 6, 7pm. And we received another call from secret services, IRGC secret services. And they told us, yeah, no, she had a mistake. She's not free yet. They communicate with you. And that was it. So later, we found that she... they moved her to Evin Prison to a 2 [LF]. 2A is the solitary confinement for IRGC in every prison and then again. So it was in total nine months solitary confinement from the time that they took her and they moved her to general ward... women's general ward in Evin Prison after that.
Daren Nair 12:50
So, in summary, she was basically arrested on false charges, detained in Evin Prison for about four years, maybe five years. And then she was on house arrest.
Mohammad Zaghari 13:04
Four years prison, one year house arrest and one year waiting for the new sentence or releasing. But finally they released her, so six years...
Daren Nair 13:17
Yeah, and all of this because the Iranian regime wanted to force the British government to pay a 40-year-old 400 million pound debt that had nothing to do with Nazanin. She was basically held hostage to force the British government to pay up a 400 million pound debt. And they did finally pay that debt of last week. And within a few days, Nazanin was released. So they weren't hiding the fact that she was a hostage. They do publicly say that it's not related. But come, on people. We're not stupid. I've interviewed your brother-in-law, Richard, multiple times on this podcast. And he's explained very well what things have been like from his perspective. You, as you said, were in Iran with your parents when Nazanin was arrested. You took care of your niece, Gabriella,, who was one year old at the time. What was the experience like and what did you do?
Mohammad Zaghari 14:17
If I want to tell the story from the beginning but. you know, it's... it's from my view. It's not from Richard's view. I had a communication with Richard all the time, because I was the only person in the family who did speak English fluently. It wasn't easy from the first day. I never forget the trauma that we have... that we had, you know, when my mom and dad opened the door. When they come... they came back from airport. They were delayed for coming back so I expected two, three in the morning they come back but they came back at six o'clock in the morning and... so okay, maybe something wrong with the car. Then I heard Gabriella 's voice. She was one....one and a half years old, 18 months. And she was crying, because she's got separated. So, the first 48 hours, I couldn't sleep. The tension and panic was inside the house. We didn't know. I didn't know we are in a long six years journey from those times. And every time we had a conversation with the authorities, those guys told us it would be fine. She was going home soon. Every time, every time, every time they told us we've been told this, so which was a false hope. But from the time we understand the situation that she is in the hands of IRGC guys, we've been told that there is an issue between Iran and UK, which they need UK to pay something. We didn't know what is it on those time at the beginning, but they wanted a clearly set agreement between UK and Iran. So then, later, we found that there is a long debt issue between Iran and UK, which is related to back in 1974/75, before the time that Nazanin was born. So long debt for the Chieftain tanks that they wanted British government to pay. So, they took Nazanin and other Brits as a hostage to force British government to pay this money. So, it wasn't... it was a different difficult situation, which we had no chance to, to be in the middle and have the experience. By the time that I was working, I had no choice to go to judiciary, ask for the, you know, family visits. She was in solitary confinement. So once a month, we could do that. Or family visits, basically for Gabriella because she needs her parents she needed her mom. She needed her dad... her dad was in the UK, but Mom was inside the prison. I never forget those times that we went to the judiciary, asked for the meetings. My dad wrote many letters and asked them to clarify, to say what's happened, what's going on, why they have this situation. But no one says from them at all. And raising a kid. Raising a kid which wanted more... wanted that was just a two months, 19 months. It wasn't easy. It wasn't easy. And because we had no experience of this situation, it took us a long time to understand what is the situation, how we need to go, how we get the lawyer, how to deal with this stuff. And the time that we found any movement or any activities from the parents or lawyer in Iran, it's not... it's useless because the negotiations and the job should be done in the UK, not in Iran. As an... as that... that agreement that they told us from the beginning. They threatened family members, Nazanin's family members. They threatened me in front of my parents, in absence of me to my parents, and Nazanin, so they knew how to play this game, how to put the family under pressure to control their other kids. But yeah, it wasn't an easy experience. Clearly, if you see my mom and dad now and compare them with the six years ago, they clearly aged because of the situation. But yeah, it's done now.
Daren Nair 19:34
Again, I'm sorry, you had to go through this. Now you faced many issues as a family while Nazanin was held hostage. You just mentioned quite a few there. How hard was it trying to visit Nazanin in prison with Gabriella? You just mentioned those monthly visits when Nazanin was in solitary confinement. And then when she was in a women's ward, you visited her as well with Gabriella. Could you just talk to us about the issues you faced?
Mohammad Zaghari 20:04
In solitary confinement, the first... up to the point that she was in Kerman, we had just one family visit. My parents flew to Kerman. They visited Nazanin in one of the IRGC safe houses in Kerman City. I'm sure that Nazanin would explain later, those visits, but when they moved her to Tehran, as she was under control of IRGC, they could control the family by family visits so easily. They could, you know, make you to wait for hours outside of the prison and put you under pressure, just... just waiting, waiting place there's a office, there's just a toilet, I think. I'm not sure about any water there, but for hours and hours and till they let you to in visit Nazanin or your prisoner. So, even if they are not, you know, comfortable with the prison or prison situation, they can easily ban you visiting your prisoner or even stop the visits for her because they are not happy with their behaviour or what's going on with it, which they did to us. So, anytime they're very unhappy with what Richard doing here, raising the voice or British government activities, they played with the family also in Iran. I remember for the first time she came out for three days furlough, back in, I think, 2018... I'm not sure the time, because it's a long time. It's a long journey. I'm sorry, I'm not good at timings and dates. But for the first three days, she came home. We've been informed that she's coming for example, on Thursday. I went to the prison, wait for half a day, six hours, seven hours. She didn't come home. And then we've been told that "no, she's not coming home. Come back and the time that she's coming, we let you know." But after two days, they called. I think it was on Saturday. In the middle of Bank Holiday, they call... she called and I was in the house that she called by someone's outside of the prison cell phone. They said, she said, "no, I'm out. Come and pick me up." So I went there. It's just as simple. So okay, she didn't come home. So, they after two days, but that's a pressure to a person who is just waiting, family for waiting for their kid, for their daughter, for Gabriella, her mother to come home just for three days. But still they're playing with that. The same... Can you... can... you can imagine the same play, the same pressure in every step, in every movement in our case could happen. And it happened also. So loads of pressure, like not accepting the stuff that she requested, and we couldn't handle the problems for having medical treatments. Problems with the medicines we wanted to send inside the prison. She couldn't buy them, so she needed medicines. Anytime she needs medical treatment from outside the prison, they played... they played to show their power. They played to put us under pressure and the family. And there is no people would not see these problems. Because they see, okay, she's in prison or the prisoner's in prison, but there are loads of activities outside for their parents, family members. And when someone, you know, stuck in prison or ended up in a prison, it's not just the pressure on the person, it's just is also pressure on the families and the people who are connected. I'm sure to the problems families of Nazanin here also because it was also pressure for them. But a different kind, but still pressure to the family. So, as I said, to Nazanin's friend every time and they agreed with this when Nazanin ended up in prison. A couple of families involved is more than just Nazanin's family or Richard's family. It was friends who helped us, friends who couldn't come back to Iran anymore. Yeah, all of them. Yeah, sort of a pressure, a different type, but still pressure, and that's the behaviour of IRGC, to force the family of prisoners to keep quiet. And it's not just Nazanin as a hostage or hostage families. It's just their behaviour to all the families, the activists, also for human rights. They are active on human rights and political prisoners. They do the same, same game to...
Daren Nair 25:54
You mentioned that they threatened your elderly parents. You mentioned that the IRGC threatened you. How did you respond? And how did you change your behaviour?
Mohammad Zaghari 26:04
That's a good question. After those times, I couldn't communicate with my dad. In a time that... the... they arrest before the time they arrest Nazanin because my dad was cautious to protect his son. He didn't want his son to end up in the hands of IRGC. But that's what they do. Then, you know, they put an anger between the family members. And, you know, they bring a fight inside the family to control the family behaviour and the situation. Yeah, they threatened us. They threatened me specifically, because of speaking to Richard and giving him information, which happened a couple of times. And then my argues and fights with my father started raised. If I'm saying correct, but yeah, after that, I couldn't communicate with my father incomp... compared to before this situation. But, yeah, this is... this is the pressure. This is... this is what they want. And it is not just for our families for, as I said, for every prisoner's family.
Daren Nair 27:26
So when you say you couldn't communicate with your father, was this when you came back to the UK? Or was this when you were still... when you're in Tehran?
Mohammad Zaghari 27:34
No, even in Tehran, even in Tehran, because I know we had loads of arguments, because he wanted to protect his son. But I was... I was young. I was just wanted to do something for my sister, even fights inside the prison for family visits, which I had, which I, you know, had a couple of times with the prison's guard's and etc. And my father was all time... all the time angry that you might end up in prison, which, you know, which I didn't, luckily. But family members of prisoners and activists, sometimes they do. So, we've got cases like Atena Daemi. They threatened her sisters, also they open the case against them, because they're proactive in her case. Many, many I can't name them many, but many family members also threatened because of their prisoner, their own pay or being active on their case. Yeah.
Daren Nair 28:41
I'm sorry, hear that again. Now, you must have just turned 30 at the time when Nazanin was taken. You've been taking care of Gabriella like she's your own daughter up to the point she was reunited with Richard. When Gabriella came back over to the UK in October 2019, you came to the UK with her. You now live with Richard and Gabriella. You are still obviously very close. Can you talk more about that experience?
Mohammad Zaghari 29:10
When you told 30, and now I'm 36, yeah, it's a long time. I've never think about it, you know, because yeah, um, ah, sorry, Daren. But when we found, yeah, she's not coming back. So I had a role of her father, second father in Iran, because of the age gap that she had with my parents. So, try to take her out, you know, every time I had. I was working. I had issues with, you know, everyone working, but I always wanted to spend some times with her, to not to feel that she's alone, taking her out, even with my mom, my dad. Yeah, we have had a long time. Then I brought her here back in 2019, October. Nazanin, Richard, as... we decided she started school in the UK. So it was quite strange experience. I've never had this type of experience to bring my sister's daughter in a flight, take her in a flight and bring her back to the UK to her father. And she was just... she spoke just Farsi, when she was in Iran. And we had the sort of transition period that I need to be here with her and Richard. And she could speak English. And now she just speak English. Not... not speaking Farsi. But it's back. It's on her back mind... back of mind. Nazanin will remind those times that, you know, she couldn't speak Farsi, but yeah, it wasn't easy. I'm sure not for her also, not for any of us.
Daren Nair 31:13
I'm sure it will be difficult for her to communicate with her... with your parents now her grandparents because she no longer speaks Farsi. Right? So how... how does Gabriella communicate with your parents?
Mohammad Zaghari 31:28
She needs someone to speak Farsi. So to translate sometimes, some words, she know, like Salam is Hi, how are you? I'm fine. These kinds of simple words, she knows. But when they start speaking Farsi, she can't understand. So she needs someone to speak Farsi and English and translate it to her. Yeah, it was... it was a, you know, different experience to me. I've never had any kid. But to raise my sister's daughter...
Daren Nair 32:09
Like I said at the beginning, I know you very well, like close friends. And from what I've seen, you make a great dad. I know you studied at university here in the UK. So, you're no stranger to the country. You did your postgraduate degree here in Southampton, right?
Mohammad Zaghari 32:27
Yes, yes, I did my master's degree in Southampton back in 2012.
Daren Nair 32:32
Yeah, so... so.... So, you had to leave your entire life behind in Iran. When you came back here in 2019 with Gabriella, and it's unlikely you'll ever be able to go back to Iran? How have you been coping with that?
Mohammad Zaghari 32:46
When I came? When I brought Gabriella back in 2019. I came with the... with three suitcases. Just half of one of them belongs to me, the rest of us for Gabriella. I didn't know that I can't come back. But because of what happened at the airport and the problems we had in the airport, both in transit airport and the Iran airport. And what happened to the family, and basically to me on the Iranian. state media. They had a conversation with lawyers. Our family's here and Iran. And we decided it's not possible for me to come back. It is a huge risk for me to come back and end up in prison also. So, I decided to stay. And it wasn't an easy decision. It wasn't easy decision at all. So I wasn't good for the for the whole first three months is because yeah, I had to when I left Iran, I was thinking okay, I'm coming back after some time. But yeah, even I took some days off from the office, from the company that I used to work for them. Then everything changed, no longer possible to come back because of this issue. And, yeah, this... This does just that are normal for every human rights activists or the people who end up in this situation to leave their country and not able to come back because they might end up in the prison or prosecuted for what you're doing.
Daren Nair 34:57
So how are you finding the UK?
Mohammad Zaghari 35:00
Back in 2012, when I came here, it was different. I had my sister here, other relative here, a family member here, but when I came here, was responsible for the little kid and a transition time to hand over her to her father. And also because Nazanin was inside in Iran, so she needs, he needs his help. So, I lived with them for these years until Nazanin come back home. So a different experience. I didn't have the feeling that I should live in this situation all the time, I was thinking back of my mind. At the end, my sister is hostage and held in Iran. Now... Now she's released, she's coming back home. So, she's in London. So, I should plan for my future. So, it wasn't easy, but it is what it is. We ended up in a situation that we didn't expect. And finally, we could survive at the end, which I'm sure for every family members of hostages, it's the same, same feeling, the same experience.
Daren Nair 36:20
I mean, you have a lot in common. Right? So, I think one of the key things that Richard has done is he's kind of built this community of families, of people with loved ones currently held hostage, as well as former hostages. So, you're not alone. They, this community knows what you're going through, because they've gone through it themselves. And some people are still going through it. So, you're kind of leaning on each other. And then there's all also the wider community, people who campaigned to free Nazanin, people who were strangers at the time, but now are close friends always here to support you. So, you're not alone. Right? We... you're going to get through this. We will help you get through this. As long as it takes. You, Nazanin, Richard and Gabriella and everyone else impacted will now be taking time to recover. It's going to be a long journey. It's going to take time. So what else is next for you?
Mohammad Zaghari 37:17
That's a good question. I'm still in the joy of my sister coming back home. But... but trying to build my family here. Continue to live here. So I see. But what will happen, but yeah, still at this point, I'm still living with the joy of my sister coming back. And, you know, they're our family. We're uniting again in the UK. But yeah, there. We've got a long path recovery from what happened and building up our future.
Daren Nair 38:00
Absolutely. Now, even though Nazanin is back home, there are other British and foreign nationals still held hostage in Iran. Morad Tahbaz is one of them, Mehran Raoof is another. So, among the publicly known cases, there are hostages from Britain, America, France, Germany, Sweden, Austria and other countries. Can you talk to us about them?
Mohammad Zaghari 38:25
The knowledge that I have is just restricted what we can... could see on Twitter, on social media. When I was in Iran, where I was close with some of their family members like Aras Amiri's family, we're close to them. But some of them after that we came out there we get close to Sam Radjabi's family, close contact to not the British cases but the German case, Nahid Taghavi, close with Nahid's daughter. But my... most of the knowledge is... is related to the what happened in social media. A recent case that happened I think, was yesterday. That was the son of one of the Australian prisoner... Australian Iranian prisoners did a tweet. We were with his son from the beginning, communication with his son but, yesterday, I did it tweet, sad his father passed away. inside the prison. Shokrollah.
Daren Nair 40:10
Shokrollah Jebeli, the 83-year-old Australian citizen.
Mohammad Zaghari 40:13
Yeah, Shokrollah Jebeli was really sad news. Yesterday was Iranian New Year. At New Year time, he did a tweet and said his father passed away and he couldn't do anything. They... we were in contact with him. You were in contact him from the beginning and you did loads of campaigning. I had loads of conversation with his son, advising him, but, at the end, it's the family to make a decision to go on public or not. But it was a sad news for every one of us that Shokrollah passed away inside the prison. And we couldn't do more than that. We couldn't do what we could do. But that it's sad news, you know, it's not always a freedom from prison in... with a happy face or sometimes it's just a freedom. But for Shokrollah, it's a sad face that he's no longer living [anymore. Mr. Goss is] I'm sure he's saying. But yeah, this is this is what happened yesterday. I wish I'm really sorry.
Daren Nair 41:43
Yeah, I'm so sorry for his family as well. I know his son, Peyman Jebeli. Like you said, he got in contact with me. He's done... at least, he's done a couple interviews in Australian media. His father, Shokrollah Jebeli, at 83 years old, was held in Iran's Evin Prison because of a civil dispute. He was denied medical care. Amnesty International released an urgent action saying that withholding medical care for Shokrollah amounts to torture. And the prison authorities did withhold medical care, and he died. So, we are so sorry for the Jebeli family. And this is, I mean, this is the nightmare of for every hostage family, for a loved one to die in captivity. And we're so sorry for them. Now, Mohammad, we're almost at the end of our interview. Is there anything else you'd like to mention?
Mohammad Zaghari 42:44
I wanted to say thank you to everyone who worked with us, who supported us. From the taxi driver who took my mom and Gabriella for free from our house to the prison when they realised that she's Nazanin Zaghari's daughter, from... from the doctor who visited Gabriella for free, medicines at the doctors who supported us. So, after so supportiveness, any family, everyone, friends, relatives, family members, everyone who were involved in this case, wanted to say thank you to them. And also the other fact is, wanted to suggest to the families that they are not dated in making the decision to go public, which they are their loved ones or behind the bar. They need to speak to public, you need to put the Iranians under pressure by speaking to public media. This is the case that they can secure the life of their prisoner inside the prison, force the officials to free them. That's the way that making noise and sound... sound on newspapers or huge news agencies would help them and they don't listen to the interrogators that they always say: keeping quiet is helpful for your case. Now, go public and speak to media that's guarantee the safety of your prisoner, and it will help your prisoner to come home. So...
Daren Nair 44:44
I absolutely agree. If the one... if there's one thing that Richard's campaign to free Nazanin has proven is that publicity works. Don't get me wrong. There are families that have been able to secure the release of their loved ones through quiet diplomacy. But as you... as you've seen with Nazanin's case, public campaigning works. And I mentioned this to Richard as well. Right? So Gabriella is seven and a half years old. And right now she's not going to fully process this trauma. When she gets older, in teenage years, in her twenties, she's gonna look back and wonder why she lost six years of her life with her mum. And she's gonna think: whose fault was this? Did... Did my mum and dad do everything they could to be with me? Did my dad do everything to free my mother? That's what Gabriella is gonna think. All she has to do is to Google her father's name. And she'll see all the evidence proving that Richard did everything any person could ever do to free his wife, to reunite his family to bring her mother home.
Mohammad Zaghari 46:02
Yeah, Richard did his best work on the case, tirelessly. And Richard kept Nazanin's name up on the media every minute to secure her release, to secure her inside the prison. And yeah, no doubt he did best. All of us tried to help him. But he was the voice. Yeah, he's like my brother. He's not just a brother-in-law. So, I don't have any brother. But yeah, he's just brother to me that, yeah. Brought my sister back from Iran with his campaigning.
Daren Nair 46:51
Absolutely. And it wasn't just freeing your sister. He raised awareness of hostage diplomacy. He basically was responsible for creating a coalition of families with loved ones held hostage in Iran. And he campaigned together with them, both in the UK and internationally, to just raise the profile of all these families as well. And not just in Iran. He helped many families. I know he helped Daniela Tejada, Matthew Hedges's wife. He is an academic who was held in the UAE. He has been helping many other families. I could start naming them, but we don't have that much time. Richard is also one of my closest friends. And is... he was very helpful when I started creating this podcast as literally called Pod Hostage Diplomacy, because I've been campaigning with him for six years. So yeah, fantastic work. Well done, Richard. Well done, Mohammad. And as I said at the beginning, you're one of my closest friends. I've been campaigning with you and your family to free your sister, Nazanin, for more almost six years. I know how much this means to you and to all of us. There are no words. Congratulations, and thank you for taking the time to speak to me.
Mohammad Zaghari 48:14
Thank you, Daren.
Daren Nair 48:15
As we discussed during the interview with Mohammad, Nazanin may be home, but there are still other foreign nationals held hostage and wrongfully detained in Iran. These include 67-year-old German citizen, Nahid Taghavi, held hostage in Iran since 16 October 2020. German citizen and US resident, Jamshid Sharmahd, who in July 2020, was kidnapped in Dubai, by agents of Iran's Ministry of Intelligence and taken to Iran where he's still being held today. French citizen and academic, Fariba Adelkah, who has been wrongfully imprisoned in Iran since 5th of June 2019, as well as Austrian citizen and father of three from Vienna, Kamran Ghaderi, who has been held hostage in Iran since 2 January 2016, which is three months before Nazanin was taken. We've interviewed the families and campaigners for all four of these individuals on our podcast. Please do check out these episodes at podhostagediplomacy.com, or wherever you get your podcasts, to find out what you can do to help. After Nazanin's release, I contacted these families and asked them to share their thoughts as well as what now needs to be done by their respective governments to bring them home. They've all sent me voice messages with their thoughts. Here is the first one from Mariam Claren, who is based in Germany. She is the daughter of German hostage in Iran, Nahid Taghavi.
Mariam Claren 49:47
The release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her return to UK, to her lovely family, Richard and Gabriella, makes me so happy and was one of the most happiest moments since my mom, Nahid Taghavi was taken hostage by the Islamic Republic of Iran. But let's not forget, at the first place, Nazanin should never have been taken. And what Richard did for his wife, his campaign, his fight, and keeping her case alive for almost six year was the pressure, which was needed to secure the release of Nazarin. I really hope they have a good and great time together, they can recover and find to another again and be a family. And I really, really hope that this opportunity of negotiation is going to be taken by other governments, like the German government. My mother, the German Iranian dual national, Nahid Taghavi, is in Iranian jail since more than one and a half years, and I really hope, and I really want the German government to take this opportunity to negotiate and to secure the release of my mother, too. And I ask the international community to don't stop campaigning with us. Protest. Write your MPs, and ask for the release of all unjustly detained. Thank you very much.
Daren Nair 51:24
Here is the second message from Gazelle Sharmahd, who is based in Los Angeles, California. She is the daughter of Jamshid Sharmahd, German hostage and US resident held in Iran.
Gazelle Sharmahd 51:36
When I heard that Nazanin was released, and finally back home with her family, it was unbelievable. I was so excited. I wanted to contact Richard right away. And when I talked to him, I was... there was absolutely no words, I was speechless. Just overwhelmed with emotions. You know, Richard was the first hostage family that contacted us. When my dad was kidnapped in 2020, he spoke to me and my brother for hours, pretty much giving us a crash course in what to do when a terror regime takes your loved one hostage and, like, all of the strategies, who to contact, who the people are, what he has done, what he thinks he did wrong, all of those things. He just shared everything with us. And we were so grateful at that time, because we were lost, we did not know what to do. And that was such a... that's such a great help. We learned so much from him. And throughout all this time, he was a great role model and guide to, I believe, all hostage families. Everybody knows about Nazanin's case by now. I think throughout all this time, hostage families become so familiar with one another. Because out of all the people in the world, they are the only ones that feel it in their heart. They can relate to all the struggle and emotional torture that we all go through. No one else can even begin to imagine what we're going through every single day, you know, as hostage families. Nazanin's case was also very dear to me because my daughter is right now, at about the same age that Gabriella must have been when they ripped her mother out of her life. And I... I can't imagine what that must have felt like, like as a mother... as a mother right now. It is so inhumane. They traumatise an innocent child by taking her mother hostage. And that's why I feel so touched when I see the pictures of them reunited after... after all these years. It's just... it's just so beautiful. The release of Nazanin and Anoosheh gives us hope, of course, because we can see that it is possible. There is a chance that we, as little people, can do something to make big governments do the right thing. And it took a lot of time and the help of thousands of people. But it is nonetheless possible to have a happy ending. And at the same time, it is bittersweet. You can't help but wonder what will happen to my dad and to all the other hostages that are still in Iran. I have not been able to talk to my dad for almost a year. They completely cut out all of our communication. And they're moving quickly, show trial after show trial, and these horrible, unethical kangaroo courts that are nothing but lies and propaganda to get him to the death sentence. So I wonder, will I have enough time to get Germany to do the right thing before it's too late? I mean, if they would give him a normal sentence like the other hostages, and normal sentences in quotation marks because there's nothing normal about 10 years for supposed espionage or whatever against the State Security blah they put on their case, but... but a regular sentence. I would... I would not feel so threatened. But in execution, you don't get any do overs once they kill someone. And from what I've seen from the German government so far, they have not been able to achieve anything in my dad's case in the last year and a half. My dad was kidnapped, a German citizen was kidnapped, and tortured, and he's still being tortured. And we still don't know where he is and how he's doing and what they're doing to him. We have no contact to him. So, what will it take for us to make our government act with urgency and save his life? It took Richard half a decade to build his support system, the human rights groups and most importantly, the strong media support that he got to put enough pressure on Britain to negotiate the life of his wife out of this hell. I don't know if my dad has half a decade time left to do that. So, I really hope that Germany, America and all the EU countries that are involved, will follow through quickly and save all the hostages that are left behind. There is a small window of opportunity open right now. The regime wants something. They want to negotiate the Iran Nuclear Deal is going on. And if that window closes, I don't know what will happen to my dad, and to all the others that are left behind.
Daren Nair 56:32
Here is Sandrine Perrot, who is based in France. She is a colleague of French academic held in Iran, Fariba Adelkah, and a core member of the Free Fariba support committee.
Sandrine Perrot 56:44
The release of... of Nazanin and Anoosheh are not bittersweet for us, no, not at all. Quite on the contrary, and we're really very happy for their... for their liberation, fully happy about their their release. That really made our day, and we shared their joy and happiness. We've been following Richard and Elika Ashoori for... for so many years to free Nazanin and Anoosheh. So, this is really a great relief and a happy ending to an unbearable situation for for their families. So no, really, that's... that's an incredible news, and we had the opportunity to tell Richard already how happy we are that his family's now reunited, and how much we admire the tireless involvement he had for so many years, the... his remarkable determination. Richard and Elika really have put in a lot of energy and that's... that's really very inspiring for us. Then, of course, these releases also show the political nature of these detentions and how the solutions are to be found on several levels. So, for Fariba... for Fariba, we have no news for the moment, even if we know that the French authorities are working on it. That... let's say that for the moment, we can only hope. As you know, the situation is extremely complex and linked to each national situation. Each case is personal and very different. But just like when Roland Marchal was released in March 2020, the release of Nazanin and Anoosheh really gives us even more hope and energy to continue to mobilise for the liberation of Fariba. You know, this struggle for the release of our prisoners also builds human bounce. And so this good news really brings joy to our all small community. So please tell Nazanin, Richard, Gabriela and the entire Ashoori family how happy we are for them. We wish them to enjoy in this first days of freedom and the beginning of this new life. They really deserve it, all of them. And of course, let's hope that next time that will be Fariba's turn. Thank you.
Daren Nair 59:16
Finally, here is Harika Ghaderi from Vienna. Her husband is Austrian hostage in Iran, Kamran Ghaderi.
Harika Ghaderi 59:25
Hello, Daren. First of all, I would like to thank you very much for the interview. I think it's great that you help so many families so that their voices are heard. I would like to thank you for that. Thank you very much. I am very happy and glad that Nazanin is finally free. For years Richard fought for her release and he was an inspiration for me. I'm very happy to see that he has succeeded. I wish Nazanin, Gabriella and Richard a wonderful life together. Dear Nazanin, a long nightmare is finally over, and from now on, I wish you a lot of joy and happiness. When I read about Nazanin's release, I was so hopeful and impatient to hear about Kamran's release as well. But since there was no news about Kamran the next day, I was very sad. We have been waiting for his release for six years, and it was very disappointing to see that he is still in prison. And we don't know when he will finally be free. I want to ask the Austrian government and the European Union to work actively for the release of Kamran. A human life is very valuable. And I demand from the European countries to work together so that my husband finally gets justice. And our three children, after six years of separation, have their beloved father back in their everyday life. The release of Nazanin is a very good example that this is possible. I demand Kamran's immediate and unconditional release.
Daren Nair 1:00:57
It appears that each country seems to be working on their own to free their citizens held hostage in Iran. Some families may argue that their country is not doing anything at all. The thing is, what these countries should be doing is working together to free all their citizens. That way, they'll have a lot more leverage. And they'll be able to free many more and hopefully all the foreign nationals held hostage in Iran. And we'll be right here campaigning with their families. We'll be right here letting you know what you can do to help. We'll be right here until all these hostages are freed and come back home, just like Nazanin. Thank you for listening to this week's episode of Pod Hostage Diplomacy. We're not just a podcast, we're a community. If you're on Twitter and would like to post a message of solidarity to the families or have any questions for us, please tweet it using the hashtag #PodHostageDiplomacy, and we'll get back to you. If you like what we're trying to do, please do consider supporting the show financially. You can do this using the support the show link in the description of this podcast episode. We're grateful for any contributions, no matter how small. Thanks again for listening. And we'll be back next week. Take care.