Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe breaks down in tears during reunion with her daughter
An emotional video clip shows the moment Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe drops to her knees and bursts into tears upon seeing her eight-year-old daughter Gabriella after she lands on British soil following six years in an Iranian prison.
The clip, which shows the schoolgirl eagerly waiting with her father Richard Ratcliffe and the family of Anoosheh Ashoori, another British-Iranian detainee who was released, is played in documentary Nazanin, which airs on Channel 4 at 9pm this evening.
Elsewhere in the film, the schoolgirl reveals to her father that she spent her fifth birthday in an Iranian prison where she visited her mother, but was not allowed to say goodbye to her before the visit abruptly ended and she was ‘carried by a prison guard’.
Gabriella, who was 22 months old when her mother was first arrested at the airport in Tehran as she tried to return home following a visit to see her parents, said: ‘Is that mummy?’ as she watched Nazanin step off the plane in London in March 2022.
The film follows the Zaghari-Ratcliffe family as they fight to bring British-Iranian national Nazanin home after her arrest in 2016 when the Iranian regime accused her of being a British spy.
Gabriella also reveals her sorrow at being without her mother, after she flew back to the UK to be with Richard in 2019 following a spell in Tehran with Nazanin’s parents.
The emotional reunion between mother and daughter is filmed at Heathrow Airport in March 2022, when Nazanin and Anoosheh Ashoori finally return to British soil.
After campaigning for six years for his wife’s release from prison, Richard Ratcliffe finally makes a breakthrough and is filmed telling his daughter that ‘Mummy might be coming back soon’. He asks if she wants to come to the airport to meet her.
In response, Gabriella asks: ‘What if this is all a trick?’
A Channel 4 documentary which airs tonight at 9pm shows the emotional moment Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe drops to her knees to hug her eight-year-old daughter Gabriella following her return to British soil after she spent 6 years in an Iranian prison
However, the excited eight-year-old rushes into her bedroom to pack her bag, and catwalks several different dresses so she can look her best for her mother.
Meanwhile, Richard looks around at the messy family home and jokes Nazanin will tell him off for the mess.
At the airport, the family eagerly awaits Nazanin’s arrival as her plane lands. As she steps off the plane, her daughter says: ‘Is that Mummy?’
Richard laughs and replies: ‘That’s Mummy.’
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, pictured with her daughter Gabriella in Iran, was arrested at Tehran airport in 2016
As Nazanin walks through the door, Gabriella runs to greet her mother who bursts into tears and drops to her knees to hug her. Richard then walks towards them, shakes the hand of Mr Ashoori, and hugs his wife and daughter.
The film opens with Nazanin’s words recorded in a video message, less than a year after her arrest.
She says: ‘I have spent nine months in solitary confinement… every night away from my child.’
The mother adds: ‘I haven’t done anything wrong. I need to go home.’
Extraordinary bodycam footage is played from the moment an officer from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard informs Nazanin she is under arrest at Tehran Airport in 2016.
Speaking in Farsi, he tells her: ‘I am from the prosecutor’s office. I am here to inform you, you are banned from leaving the country. We have an order for your arrest. You must come with us to the interrogation department.’
In response, Nazanin does not say a word, but stares back at the officer open-mouthed in bewilderment.
After she was detained at the airport, the mother was placed in solitary confinement and was interrogated in custody.
Speaking about Nazanin’s arrest, when he learnt she had not boarded her flight home, Richard recalls being told there had been a ‘problem with her passport’ and that his wife would be on the next flight home.
‘It was probably a good 10 days before we found out where she was and established who it was that had got her (which was the Revolutionary Guard) and that, to me, was when the wheels fell off,’ he says.
‘I just realised that she was sitting in solitary [confinement] somewhere and I’d done nothing about it.’
Richard explains Nazanin was not given a change of clothes and ate food that had been drugged while in custody, while interrogators threatened to harm her family.
The program follows the family as they try to keep things as normal as possible for Gabriella, while Richard battles to bring his wife home.
He tells the camera about conversations he has had with Nazanin while she is in prison, and how she longs to be reunited with her family.
‘She said she hated waking up when she was asleep,’ he tells the camera after one conversation with his wife.
‘She said in her dreams, Gabriella was there and then when she woke up, she was back in prison.’
The film also documents the toll Nazanin’s arrest has taken on Gabriella.
She is filmed baking cookies with Elika Ashoori, whose British-Iranian father Anoosheh was also detained in Iran for several years.
After they have finished baking, Elika asks Gabriella when she misses her mother the most.
Gabriella replies that night time is the most difficult and explains: ‘I cry about it because I want her home.’
Elsewhere in the documentary, Richard is filmed taking calls with foreign secretaries including Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab as he continues his campaign to bring Nazanin home.
He expresses his frustration at a £400 million debt owed to Iran by the UK over an arms deal which was made before the Iranian Revolution in 1979. As part of the deal, agreed between the British government and the Shah of Iran, the country made the advance payment to the UK for 1,500 Cheftain tanks.
Following the revolution in which the Shah was overthrown, the deal was scrapped but the money had already been paid. The UK government previously admitted the debt owed to Iran but claimed it could not repay it as long as Iran was subject to economic sanctions.
While she was in custody, Nazanin claims she was repeatedly told by officials that she would not be released until the British government repaid the debt. In 2021, a year before Nazanin was released, Jeremy Hunt (who had been foreign secretary from 2018-2019) said Iran was linking Nazanin’s case to the debt.
As the documentary follows Richard’s campaign to free his wife, he expresses frustration at how her case is being handled from both the Iranian and British side.
In particular, he notes his anger at Boris Johnson’s inaccurate comments to a Commons committee when he was foreign secretary that Nazanin was ‘teaching people journalism’ while visiting Iran.
In response, Richard says: ‘What the f*** did you just do there? That was f****** outrageous.’
Later in the documentary, Richard claims the British government ‘put quite a lot of pressure on [him] to shut up’.
He says: ‘[They were] essentially saying, ‘keep quiet, you’re not helping your wife, you’re making this worse’.’
A UK government spokesman told Femail: ‘Iran put Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe through a horrendous ordeal, right up to the moment she left the country.
‘The UK Government worked tirelessly to end Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s unfair detention and we were delighted that Nazanin was returned to the UK and reunited with her family.’
At the beginning of the documentary, Richard and Gabriella get ready to visit Number 10 Downing Street to meet with Boris Johnson in 2020, after he had become prime minister.
As the pair get ready, they share a sweet moment as Richard tells Gabriella she should wear a dress that has been made for her by Nazanin.
Later, Nazanin, who at this point is living under house arrest in Iran following the release of 85,000 prisoners due to the pandemic, video calls Richard to ask about the visit.
Gabriella tells her mother she went to ‘Boris Johnson’s house’ where she ‘visited the cat’.
Recalling how he was reunited with Gabriella a few years after Nazanin’s arrest, Richard tells the program it was a difficult decision for the family to bring her back to the UK, but that it was ‘really important’ for her to start school.
Richard says: ‘At the beginning she would say, ‘I don’t want Daddy, I want Mummy. I want my Granny’.
‘Certainly those first few weeks were very tough for her… she will ask, ‘why did this happen to my Mummy’?’
He explains that Gabriella was brought back to the UK by Nazanin’s brother Mohammed, who acted as a translator between the father and daughter at first because the schoolgirl had lost her English language while living in Tehran and only spoke Farsi.
However after a few months, Gabriella is shown settling back into UK life fairly well, and it is revealed she is addicted to playing Minecraft on her iPad.
A scene in which Nazanin video calls back home shows the family having a row almost every family will be familiar with, in which Nazanin tells her daughter she is always ‘busy Minecrafting’ when she calls.
Despite trying to keep Gabriella’s life as normal as possible, the child reveals some chilling details of her time in Iran while her mother was in prison, reflecting the turmoil the family has been through.
It is revealed that Gabriella had her fifth birthday party at the prison where Nazanin was being held, so she could spend time with her mother. They shared a cake and drew unicorns, but the birthday girl sobbed when prison guards said it was time to take Nazanin back to her cell.
As her sixth birthday approaches, Gabriella reflects on her previous year and tells her father: ‘That day I couldn’t say bye-bye to Mummy… they took me upstairs where the prisoners were.
‘One of the soldiers carried me. He was a kind one.’
Nazanin airs on Channel 4 tonight at 9pm