Why is Richard Ratcliffe going on hunger strike?

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe has been detained in Iran since 2016 where she is serving a five-year sentence for alleged espionage. Nazanin was arrested at Tehran Airport by the Revolutionary Guard after visiting her parents with her 22-month-old daughter. Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, recently went on hunger strike for 15 days outside the Iranian Embassy in support of his wife, who was also hunger striking in prison.

Beryl shows her support

During his protest, he was visited by numerous MPs and supporters. Among those was our resident Beryl, aged 82, who has lived at Abbeyfield House, Wendover in Buckinghamshire for over 7 years.

Beryl, who wants to make it clear that her views are her own and do not represent The Abbeyfield Society, spoke to Sue Learner from carehome.co.uk about why she visited Ratcliffe during his protest.

“Three years ago, I signed the petition when Nazanin had to go into prison as Richard had put out a petition to get the government to sit up and take action.

“I am a family person and I have a close relationship with my grandchildren. I was at my grandson’s birthday party and he came running to me with his chubby arms outstretched. I thought 'Richard’s mother has no contact with her granddaughter and she has no chubby arms to hold.' It is appalling for Richard and Nazanin to be without their daughter but there is wider family involved as well.

“I thought I have got to do more than just put my name on a petition, as that is the easy bit.”

Beryl took the decision to travel by herself to the Iranian Embassy, saying:

“If no one wants to do the things I want to do, I just go and do them by myself. My husband died in 1985 but why shut your life down and not do things? There is so much life to be lived.”

Beryl met Richard as well as his mother Barbara and his brother, who is a doctor and was monitoring his health throughout the hunger strike.

“Going to the Iranian Embassy,” she said “was an incredible experience. Richard is so patient and balanced. I don’t know how he keeps his temper.

“When I visited, he had been on hunger strike for 14 days. He was lucid but was chatting quite slowly. He said he was slowing down mentally. He looked pale, calm and gentle.

“I took a candle along for Richard and I took a picture from some of the children at the swimming pool where I help out.”

She says that visiting Richard Ratcliffe was “so important to me. I am sure it hasn’t made any difference, but I wouldn’t want to not do it”.

Beryl's life at Abbeyfield

“You get fed and your washing gets done. Who wants to do cooking and cleaning if you don’t have to?! Here, you can put your washing out and like magic it comes back all clean.

“It is good living here. We have all had to downsize and get rid of our family homes. When the chips are down we look after each other.”

Her granddaughter, Pamela Relph, has inherited Beryl’s indomitable spirit, winning a gold medal at both the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics for rowing. “Plus an MBE,” adds her grandma proudly.

Standing up for what you believe in is something Beryl has done all her life. “I have been on various marches and I have spent a lot of energy and I don’t know if it has made any difference. I hope some good has come of it."

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Thank you to Sue Learner, Editor at carehome.co.uk for producing the article and conducting the interview with Beryl.

The views expressed in this piece are those of Beryl Hunter's and do not necessarily reflect those of The Abbeyfield Society.

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