Campaigning with purpose – the plight of Nazanin

By Cathy Byrne

It’s been 918 days since Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested by the Iranian authorities. What was meant to be an enjoyable holiday allowing her one year old daughter Gabriella to bond with her grandparents, has turned into a never ending nightmare.

Why do we even know about Nazanin’s plight? Only because her husband, Richard has relentlessly campaigned for her release. He refused to listen to officials from the UK Government who wanted to orchestrate diplomacy behind closed doors. One month after Nazanin was detained by the Iranian authorities he started a petition on calling for her release. It now has nearly two million signatures.

Who’d have thought a corporate auditor would make such a great campaigner and story teller? Here’s why I think this campaign stands out.

Richard tells a simple narrative - a story of a mother, wife and charity worker wanting to let her daughter spend time with her grandparents. That was the only reason she was in Iran and he challenges an alternative suggestions. His story inspires empathy, compassion and is compelling.

His communication about Nazanin’s situation is authentic. We get to know how he and Nazanin are feeling every step of the way.  He’s been candid about the many lows and been honest about how his wife has taken her anger and frustration out on him during their weekly calls.  But we’ve also witnessed some of the highs such as hearing his delight at seeing his wife’s face for the first time in two and a half years, following her sudden release. Sadly, this elation was short-lived as she was returned to prison in a matter of days.

He keeps the conversations about Nazanin alive. He uses a variety of channels and opportunities to talk about her plight and encourage others to join the discussion to raise awareness and bring about change. He understands the power of visual, sharing pictures of Nazanin and Gabriella regularly. He also makes sure he turns up at the right events – United Nations General Assembly in New York, one recent example.

Richard has shown himself to be a smart lobbyist. He has developed allies in Foreign Secretary Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt and Prime Minster, Rt Hon Theresa May who have intervened with the Iranian authorities on Nazanin’s behalf, calling for her to be released on humanitarian grounds.

Richard knows that he needs to look for every opportunity to tell Nazanin’s story and help others to give her a voice.

Ultimately, whatever content is generated, shared and liked; whatever conversations happen at the most senior levels in government - the success of any campaign must be measured by outcomes. The outcome that Nazanin, Richard and millions of others want is very simple – her freedom. Let’s hope this happens sooner rather than later and this family are reunited and able to move on with their lives, together.

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