Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, 44, was born and raised in Tehran and studied English literature at the capital’s university before becoming an English teacher. After a devastating earthquake in Iran in 2003, she went to work as a translator as part of the relief effort for the Japan International Cooperation Agency.
She then worked for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies before joining the World Health Organization as a communications officer.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe came to the UK in 2007 after winning a scholarship to London Metropolitan University to do a Masters in Communication Management. It was a month after arriving in the UK that she met her future husband, Richard Ratcliffe, through mutual friends.
Describing their first date, Ratcliffe, an accountant, said they ‘clicked’ and he felt like he had ‘come home’.
The couple married in August 2009 in Winchester and their daughter, Gabriella, was born in June 2014, which Mr Ratcliffe said changed their outlook on life.
“It was very important for Nazanin to keep going back to Iran to show her daughter to her parents…Before, she always went there once a year, but she tried to go twice afterwards,” said he declared.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe started working at the Thomson Reuters Foundation in 2011 as a project coordinator before taking on the role of project manager.
Ratcliffe described his wife as very proud of her home, meticulous and tidy, and said she had a “pretty strong sense of justice” and was “outraged” by what had happened to her, as well as ‘to his daughter.
On March 17, 2016, Zaghari-Ratcliffe traveled to Iran to visit her family for the Iranian New Year with Gabriella, then nearly two years old. On April 3, 2016, members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards arrested her at Imam Khomeini Airport as she and her daughter were about to board a flight back to the UK.
Until her release on March 16, 2022, she was detained in Iran and accused of plotting to overthrow the country’s government, which she denied. She returns to the UK.
Anoosheh Ashoori, 67, is a British-Iranian businessman. He spent 10 years in the UK from 1972, studying mechanical and aeronautical engineering, before returning to Iran to care for his ailing father. He returned to the UK in 2005 to expand his business overseas.
Iranian authorities arrested him in August 2017 while he was visiting his mother.
In August 2019, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison – 10 years for allegedly “spying for the Israeli Mossad” and two years for “acquiring illegitimate wealth”. Ashoori denied both charges.
According to Amnesty International UK, Ashoori was “subjected to torture, repeatedly interrogated without a lawyer present and forced to sign a ‘confession’ while deprived of sleep”.
He described the prison conditions he was in as “overcrowded and unsanitary”.
In January 2020, Ashoori’s wife, Sherry Izadi, who lives in London, said she feared he had “no hope in hell” of being released. She also said her husband had twice attempted suicide and started a 17-day hunger strike to protest his detention.
In an article for the Guardian, Ashoori described her experience in prison. He wrote: “Every day I am faced with a choice: make or break. I tried to kill myself once, in the torture house called 209. When you hit rock bottom, the only way to get back up is to get up and reincarnate. I have to stop feeling pure rage or self-pity. Pausing is not a choice; only survival. I am not the same person who entered prison.
He was released on March 16 and is returning to the UK.
In response to his release, Ashoori’s family said, “This day has been a long time coming, and we are grateful for the efforts of everyone involved in bringing Anoosheh home. 1,672 days ago, the foundations of our family were shaken when our father and husband were wrongfully detained and abducted.
“Now we can expect to rebuild those same foundations with our cornerstone in place.”
Morad Tahbaz, born in Hammersmith, London, is a trinational (Iranian-American-British) businessman and environmentalist.
He graduated from Colgate University in Hamilton, NY in 1977 with a liberal arts degree and from Columbia University in 1983 with an MBA.
Tahbaz was a co-founder of the Persian Wildlife Heritage Foundation (PWHF) and in January 2018 Iranian authorities arrested him along with eight other people linked to the PWHF.
The group have been accused of espionage after tracking endangered species with cameras. They had been looking for endangered animals such as the Asiatic cheetah and the Persian leopard.
Iranian authorities said environmental activists used science and environmental projects as a cover to collect classified information and in November 2019 an Iranian court sentenced Tahbaz to 10 years in prison for “contacts with the enemy US government”. .
UN human rights experts said it was “difficult to understand how work to preserve Iranian flora and fauna can be linked to espionage against Iranian interests”, while a government committee concluded there was no evidence to suggest they were spies.
Tahbaz was held in the notorious Evin prison. Amnesty described him as a ‘prisoner of conscience’ and said there was evidence Tahbaz was among those subjected to ‘torture and other ill-treatment’, including prolonged solitary confinement .
US officials had also called for Tahbaz’s release with US special envoy for Iran Robert Malley describing him as a “father, environmentalist and cancer victim”. On March 16, 2022, he was released on leave and remains in Iran.
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said Tahbaz was unable to return to the UK due to complications with his US citizenship.