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Keep Two-Year-Old Daughter in Prison or Give Up Parental Rights, Iran Tells Jailed Mother

The government of Iran has told an imprisoned dual British-Iranian citizen that she must care for her two-year-old daughter in the notorious Evin Prison or sign away her parental rights, The Telegraph reported Thursday.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a charity worker for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was arrested at the Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport in April and separated from her daughter Gabriella, who has since been living with her grandparents in Iran. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sentenced to five years in prison in October.

Her husband Richard Ratcliffe told The Telegraph that his wife told him two weeks ago about her latest predicament. “The ultimatum is that Gabriella lives with her three days a week in prison or she signs a paper waiving her rights of custody,” Ratcliffe said. “She is deeply wary of having Gabriella move into prison partly because prison is horrible, and partly because after a hunger strike she does not have the strength to look after her three days a week.”

Zaghari-Ratcliffe has reportedly often been held in solitary confinement during her detention. Her mother claimed she was told in June that her daughter could be released if the United Kingdom would make a deal involving an unspecified “exchange” with Iran.

Iran has a long history of arresting dual nationals: At least six were known to be held in July, when Reuters wrote that it comprised “the highest number of Iranians with dual-nationality detained at one time in recent years to have been acknowledged.” One more dual national, a former member of the Iranian nuclear negotiating team, was arrested in August. Many analysts believe that Iran is “seeking concessions from the West in exchange for releasing” dual nationals, the Associated Press wrote that month.

Other dual nationals currently detained in Iran include U.S. resident Nizzar Zakka, an internet freedom activist who was was sentenced to 10 years in prison in September for spying despite having been invited to Iran by one of its vice-presidents; Siamak Namazi, a businessman who advocated for closer ties between the U.S. and Iran, who was sentenced alongside his 80-year-0ld father to ten years in prison in October; and Reza Shahini, a 46-year-old San Diego resident who was sentenced to 18 years in prison later that month for espionage-related charges and “collaborating with a hostile government.”

Canadian-Iranian scholar Homa Hoodfar, who was arrested earlier this year when she returned to Iran to see her family, was released at the end of September—on the same day that Iran announced that it was holding talks with the Canadian government about reopening embassies in each other’s countries. Hoodfar told CBC News after returning to Canada that her interrogators “threatened to send my dead body back to Canada,” and that she was originally arrested for “dabbling in feminism” before having her charges arbitrarily changed to helping a hostile government subvert national security.

Hoodfar’s experience echoed that of Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post reporter who along with four other Americans was released by Iran in January on the same day that the Islamic Republic received a shipment of $400 million in cash. Rezaian and two family members have filed a federal lawsuit against Iran, claiming that Rezaian was taken hostage and tortured in order to “extort” concessions from the United States during nuclear negotiations. The suit also alleges that Rezaian “suffered such physical mistreatment and severe psychological abuse in Evin Prison that he…will require specialized medical and other treatment for the rest of his life.”

In Why Does Iran Keep Taking American Hostages?, published in the September 2015 issue of The Tower Magazine, Iran expert Ali Alfoneh described the regime’s detainment of foreign and dual-nationals as “a perfectly normal procedure and political practice in the Islamic Republic. That has been the case since the first day of the revolution and continues until today.”

[Photo: Free Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe / YouTube ]