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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Voices: Those of us who knew Nazanin hardly dared to believe that he would come home.

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There has never been any doubt about Nazanin’s innocence (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

This is a rare moment of joy in the darkest of times. Against a backdrop of war, suffering and other crimes against humanity around the world, the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from his tortuous six-year confinement offers us a powerful ray of hope.

I hope that against all odds and despite the circumstances, this innocent victim of a historic political conflict has survived the most egregious violation of his freedom, separation from his loved ones, and intense psychological and physical trauma. I hope there can be a happy resolution to this most terrifying and inhumane of trials.

In the last six years, hope has sometimes been in short supply, so much so that the last 48 hours have seemed downright surreal. Those of us who were close to Nazanin dared not believe that he might actually be on his way home.

After all, hope had been offered before, only to be cruelly and wantonly snatched away. After enduring a living hell in prison – eight and a half months in solitary confinement – he was again and again offered “temporary leave”, this little taste of freedom always ended with a return to the horrors of jail, or a prolonged prison. prayer.

Nazanin’s innocence has never been questioned. The events when they first unfolded were puzzling. And as they unfolded, with mounting horror, we felt completely powerless to stop them. No amount of clarification that the Thomson Reuters Foundation does not operate in Iran, that Nazanin did not train journalists, that he was not visiting Iran on our behalf, made the slightest difference.

Facts and truth were not wanted here. Nazanin was a political hostage. And the false charges, the misinformation, the complexities of international relations, the behind-the-scenes negotiations – all of this continued to form a terrifying backdrop to Nazanin’s plight. His fate was in someone else’s hands.

But Nazanin is just extraordinary. As a colleague, he knew Nazanin to be a dedicated and professional project manager. But through our phone calls while he was under house arrest, I got to know Nazanin as an incredibly resilient and brave person. His ability to withstand hunger strikes, illness, anxiety, and brutality was amazing. Despite her terror, frustration and deep pain at his situation, his spirit never broke.

I was struck by how she would also speak lucidly and thoughtfully about so many other things. During our phone calls, we talked about the books we both loved, religion, philosophy; it seemed important to me to mention these things that were still available to her. It would also remind her that her friends and colleagues were there for her, that her job had been left open, that they missed her, that we were doing everything we could to support the campaign for her release. But when words failed, I knew she had to respect the seriousness of her situation and the pain she felt.

Her strength speaks also to the strength of her husband, Richard, whose tireless campaign kept her spirit alive and her status front and center in the hearts and minds of the world. I am full of admiration for both of them, for this couple whose little daughter doesn’t remember seeing them together and she is just beginning to understand that she has a future with both of them.

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What Nazanin failed to see was the outpouring of love and support in response to Richard’s campaign. I remember getting into a taxi one day and the driver asked me where he worked. When I told him that he was the CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation, he immediately asked if I knew Nazanin. I told this anecdote to Nazanin, who could not believe it. Without realizing it, she had become one of the most famous women in the world.

It is to this new world that Nazanin will arrive, and to a new life that will bear no resemblance to his past. Our joy at his freedom must be tempered by the knowledge of what he has endured. This will always live with her, of course, and in ways we may never know.

For our part, Nazanin has always remained part of the team and we can’t wait to see her again, when she feels ready to return. The Thomson Reuters Foundation’s work focuses on press freedom, fostering inclusive economies and promoting human rights, and I know that its experiences will provide us with valuable insights into some of the most critical issues arising from these issues.

But for now, our greatest hope must be that, surrounded by those who love her, Nazanin’s new life is filled with happiness, that she receives all the support and care she needs to come to terms with her past, and that her road to recovery begins. right here, right now.

Antonio Zappulla is CEO of the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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