December 21, 2021
Women around the world will take turns fasting for 24 hours in a show of solidarity with detained British-Iranian national Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and to pressure the British government to do more to secure her release.
The campaign, led by women’s rights group FiLiA, follows a three-week hunger strike by Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, mounted outside the UK’s Foreign Office last month.
Lisa-Marie Taylor, the chief executive of FiLiA, said women from the UK, India, Morocco, and Iran had already signed up to take part in the fasting relay.
“Richard has made it clear he doesn’t want people to get poorly,” she told The Guardian.
“So we thought we’d organize a chain of women to each fast for a day to keep the pressure on the government and show Nazanin how much support she has from women in the UK and globally.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained in Iran for nearly six years, having first been arrested and accused of plotting to overthrow the regime in March 2016. Having served a five-year sentence, she was locked up for another year, accused by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of making propaganda against the regime.
Hunger strikers in the UK will also be asked to lobby their MPs to push for action to free Zaghari-Ratcliffe.
FiLiA’s hunger strike campaign was also inspired by the actions of Margaret Owen, a barrister specializing in women’s human rights, who took up the mantle of hunger-striking for a further eight days on behalf of Ratcliffe after he was forced to conclude his strike.
Owen, 89, who visited Ratcliffe four times during his hunger strike, said: “Each time I sat next to him, I was so impressed but also so worried by the third week with the state of his health. We knew that Nazanin was begging him to stop. So I told him, I’m going to hunger strike for you.”
The barrister has a long history of hunger-striking, having also carried one out for over a week as part of a campaign to free Shaker Aamer, the last Brit locked up in Guantanamo Bay in 2013.
“I probably survive a six-day hunger strike much better than much younger people because people my age don’t eat much anyway,” she said.
Ratcliffe said: “There is something humbling about realizing people who you didn’t know about are doing this act of solidarity, that no one’s letting us be forgotten.”
He also said his daughter was upset that his own strike had not brought her mother home.
He said: “She certainly has been asking why it didn’t work: ‘You told me you were going on hunger strike to get Boris Johnson to get mummy back and mummy’s not back yet.’ And we’re preparing for Christmas without mummy again.”