#Free Nazanin

Saturday  Weds 1100  26th June 2019

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I know I haven’t written anything for a long time.. okay a VERY long time. It’s not because I haven’t been doing anything to write about but rather that I have been doing too much and haven’t had much time left to write.  I’m not a natural writer either so it is always a bit of a struggle.

But Weds was a moving day and I was determined to write a post about it.

On Weds 26th June I attended the #TimeIsNow mass lobby of Parliament in London but that’s not what I’m going to write about.

You can read lots of information about the Climate Emergency and the Time Is Now by clicking here 

After the event, feeling tired, hot and with aching feet,  I set off to visit Richard Ratcliffe who is camped outside the Iranian Embassy. He is on hunger strike in support of his wife Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who is also on hunger strike in an Iranian Prison. ( See update below) 

I am by no means an expert on this case but I can tell you that Nazanin, a British Iranian mother was convicted of being a spy in 2016, without evidence, and has been imprisoned ever since.  She was on her way home with her 1 year old daughter Gabriella after visiting her parents in Iran when she was arrested at Tehran airport. Her daughter has to remain with her parents in Iran and is now 5 and I believe Richard has not seen either of them since. It seems Nazanin’s only crime was to work for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, a UK-based media charity who Iran claimed were an Illegal group. You can read more about this organisation here  

Her situation was made worse by the then utterly incompetent Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson claiming “she was simply teaching people journalism, as I understand it,”  a completely false statement and a result of him not bothering to do his job properly. You can read about that here 

There has been a lot of media coverage so a quick internet search will give you lots more information. 

Below is a newspaper article, pinned up along with the many cards and notes from well wishers. It highlights the Iranian Embassy’s response in erecting an iron barrier between him and the door. No one from the Embassy has come out to talk with Richard. It would be good if the Ambassador Hamid Baeidinejad would find it in his heart do that.


On the day I visited ( you can see a photo of myself and Richard above ) it was a very hot day but Richard was dressed as though it was really cold, a side effect of being on hunger strike for, at that time, 12 days.  Richard welcomes everyone to come and sit for a few minutes with him and there was a short queue.  He is quietly spoken, very courteous and willing to talk but he looks so very tired and there is an immense sadness in his eyes.  He is very appreciative of people visiting him and it appears to give him strength but I fear for his health and that of Nazanin.

Richard had not spoken to his wife since Monday ( she has to phone him) and still hasn’t at time of me writing this (late Friday).  I can only imagine the agony of that.

He is supported by a wonderful group of friends and family who keep his spirits up. There are 3 small tents on the pavement where they sleep. It is very basic but cheered up by the flowers, painted stones and cards that people bring, all of which restore your faith in the goodness of people.

Afterwards I could go home, have a hot bath, rest my weary bones, eat and sleep in my comfortable bed.  I was acutely aware that Richard cannot do any of those things; separated from the woman and child he loves so much and already for more than 3 years.  A nightmare that goes on and on but I hope will soon end.

My message to the Iranian Government is simple.

You may feel as though you have been backed, or have backed yourself, into a corner but it’s not too late to show that you are so much better than this inhumane imprisonment of Nazanin.

Think of your own daughters, wives, sisters, mothers, children.

Whatever disagreements you may have with the UK Government, it is wrong to punish an innocent family in this way.   Releasing her will not be seen as an act of weakness but an act of compassion and justice.


To everyone reading this  – here is how you can help. Even doing one small thing might make all the difference.

Update 29/06/19 

Richard had a call from Nazanin this morning. She has stopped her hunger strike so Richard has stopped his too and the camp outside the Embassy will be taken down BUT Nazanin is still not free so all the other ways you can help still apply. 

If you are in London consider visiting Richard outside the Embassy to offer him, and his friends and family , support. You can keep up with whether he is still there by following the #FreeNazanin facebook page by clicking here   There is also a letter template available on the page for anyone to use to write to the Iranian Ambassador but please keep it polite.

or the Change.org Facebook page where Richard has been posting a daily blog here 

or on Twitter here 

Sign the petition on Change.org  and help it get to 3 million –  Here

There is also a petition on Amnesty International – Here

If you live in the UK write to your MP and ask him/her to publicly support Nazanin and her family.  You can find your MP here Here  . Tips on How to Write to Your MP is Here 

The website of the Iranian Embassy in the UK is Here

Their contact page is Here

If you live somewhere else in the world you can check Here if there is an Iranian Embassy in your country-  If there is, please consider writing a short letter of polite support to the Ambassador

It is my sincere hope that Nazanin, Richard and their extended families ordeal will soon be over and Nazanin will be freed.

Your comments are welcome as ever.

Saturday Girl signing off.


You can find my photography blog Photomania here 


Oppose War and Work for Peace


White poppies for peace header with words

Saturday  Sunday 1133  11th November 2018

If you are new to my blog take a look at my About page here

This Saturday was actually a Sunday but I’m sure you won’t mind.

Whilst all around us there has been a sea of red poppies I wanted to present a different side of the Centenary of the Armistice and talk about the White Poppy and Peace. To that end I attended a Remembrance Sunday Ceremony in Tavistock Square, London organised by the First World War Peace Forum. I will list the organisations who took part along with links to their website at the bottom of this piece, so that you might read more about each of them, or maybe just pick one?

Before you read on, may I ask that you go over to my other blog Helen’s Photomania to read a deeply moving and highly relevant poem called “Lest We Forget” written by Sue Gilmurray, a poet and songwriter from the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship, which was read by her at the ceremony.

If you click HERE it will open a new tab.  I commend it to you as a piece of essential reading.

Now I hope you have come back.

Tavistock square is thought of as an unofficial peace park. Not least because it contains, amongst other memorial trees and statues, a statue of Ghandi , a flowering cherry planted in memory of the victims of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Conscientious Objectors Commemorative Stone commemorating “men and women conscientious objectors all over the world and in every age” beside which the ceremony was held ( photos of this later) Sadly it was also the scene of one of the four suicide bombings in London on 7 July 2005 when a double-decker bus was blown up in the street beside the square.

Click on any photo to enlarge it. 

You can read more about the history of Tavistock Square by clicking HERE

So what does the White Poppy represent – “White poppies recall all victims of all wars, including victims of wars that are still being fought. This includes people of all nationalities. It includes both civilians and members of armed forces. Today, over 90% of people killed in warfare are civilians. “ ( Peace Pledge Union website)

This differs from the Royal British Legion and the Red Poppy – “The Legion advocates a specific type of Remembrance connected to the British Armed Forces, those who were killed, those who fought with them and alongside them. “ ( British Legion website )

I wear both a white, my own has the CND symbol too, and a red poppy. Like so many families, members of my own family served during WW1 and like so many others some of them died. They were my great uncles on my father’s side, all from the same family.

From left to right – William John Merchant – survived, Frederick James Merchant died in Flanders  24th March 1918 aged 26 and finally Henry John Merchant who also died in Flanders on the 8th August 1918 when he was barely 20. What a terrible waste.  Addendum – whilst the people, dates and 1st photo are correct, I cannot be sure the 2nd and 3rd photos are.

Apart from the aforementioned Sue Gilmurray there were some other very moving speakers including Marigold Bentley of Quaker Peace & Social Witness, who has worked on peace building  in Northern Ireland, the Middle East and elsewhere. She once said ” “if war is the answer, we’re clearly asking the wrong questions”.  I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment.

Marigold spoke about war being failure – the failure of politicians, governments and of diplomacy. She went on to say “Humanity may be capable of terrible things but there are always people protesting, challenging, making policy to make the world a better place” and “The possibility of peace is constantly with us. The activities of peace demonstrated here today by many participants and organisations, who have been part of the World War One Peace forum, are a living testimony to the alternative stories.”

The actor Michael Mears read emotional words from the peace campaigner Clifford Allen which were spoken at the end of the First World War. Clifford Allen was chairman of the No-Conscription Fellowship – before his imprisonment for refusing military service. He served three prison sentences including many weeks of solitary confinement on bread and water diets, at the end of which he was a frail and emaciated thirty year old, who looked twice his age, weighed less than eight stone and was suffering from the onset of tuberculosis.

Michael also read the following Haiku written by the poet Adrian Mitchell

Peacetime Haiku

Try one hundred years

Without any wars at all –

Let’s see if it works!

2 minutes silence was held followed by the laying of white poppy wreaths ,and other flowers, at the Conscientious Objectors Commemorative Stone.



The Ceremony ended when we were invited to share words of commitment, “We commit ourselves to peace and justice…to use our power to work for a different kind of world starting with ourselves…our families, our neighbourhoods, communities, country. We invite everyone to join us in this urgent task.

For humanity’s sake our message is: –  “No More War, Let’s make Peace Happen”each of us being asked to make an individual commitment to peace in repeating those words

The ceremony was followed by a a peace festival held nearby in the Quakers Friends House; bringing together 23 peace organisations, some of which are listed at the bottom of the page.

Similar ceremonies took place in many other towns across the country including Leeds, Bradford, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberystwyth, Pembroke, Exeter, Bath, Stowmarket, Saddleworth, Leamington Spa, Peterborough, Bridgwater and Bury St Edmunds.

I was moved to tears on several occasions during the ceremony but I left feeling thankful and hopeful that there are so many groups and individuals who are so committed to working for peace for all of us.

I’d like to end by saying if anyone is offended by the white poppy, and I know that some people are,  please ask yourself these 2 questions.

1 – Are you more offended by the white poppy than the killing, maiming, widows and orphans that result from war?

2- What are you personally doing to prevent more war and promote peace?

Thank you for reading this far.


An alphabetical list of the organisations who took part in the alternative Remembrance Sunday Ceremony is below, followed by a list of the organisations who took part in a drop-in event, Peaceful Futures, afterwards.  Click on the name and it will bring you through to the website:-

Anglican Pacifist Fellowship

  Conscience – Taxes for Peace not War

Fellowship of Reconciliation

The Movement for the Abolition of War

Network for Peace

Pax Christi

The Peace Pledge Union

Peace News 

Quaker Peace and Social Witness 

The Right to Refuse to Kill ( War Resisters International)

The Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Also :- CND , Campaign Against Arms Trade ,   Servas  , Scientists for Global Responsibility  , ForcesWatch , Housmans , Drone Wars UK , Woodcraft Folk , 80,000 Voices.

Apologies to the organisers if I have missed any.

Your comments are welcome as ever.

Saturday Girl signing off.

You can find my photography blog Photomania here