Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian dual national imprisoned in Iran on contested charges of espionage, has given an account of her first interrogation in 2016.
She said she was threatened with her daughter being taken away, and her interrogators claimed her husband was a spy and gave her false information regarding her release.
Her account of her first 40 days in custody appears in “White Torture,” a recently published book of interviews with women imprisoned in Iran on political charges compiled by Narges Mohammadi, who is in prison for her human rights work.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe told Mohammadi that she spent the first 40 days in total isolation. In her early imprisonment, Zaghari-Ratcliffe said she endured days without sleep, panic attacks, fainting, and regular attempts by her interrogators to force a confession of espionage.
She told the author that the ordeal was so distressing that she came to “doubt herself” and question whether the accusations were real.
“They tried to induce me to say something that didn’t exist. They said they had top-secret evidence that I worked for the (British) parliament and against Iran,” she said.
“I was sure that was not the case, but they repeated it so much that I doubted myself when I returned to the cell. I spent long hours in my cell wondering if the projects I had worked on had anything to do with Iran. Then I told myself that I was 100% sure that my projects had nothing to do with Iran, but after each interrogation I would review these cases over and over again,” she added.
“The interrogators threatened to send Gabriella (her daughter) to London if I did not cooperate. They kept telling me that I had lost my job and that if interrogation took too long my husband would leave me. They asked me to tell them about my friends and their work projects. I had not really slept for three weeks. I had not seen my child and I was under a lot of pressure.”
After her initial arrest and interrogation, Zaghari-Ratcliffe was sent to the notorious Ervin Prison.
She said after she was transferred there, she was allowed to meet her family, but she hardly recognized her daughter.
During the visitations, she said she struggled when her daughter asked her to go to her parents’ house.
“Every time she (Gabriella) cried goodbye I would break down,” she said. “The interrogators were present in the meeting room. When saying goodbye, I wanted to go ahead and tie her shoes for her, but they wouldn’t let me and I had to leave her.”
Zaghari-Ratcliffe is set to return to court on Monday in Tehran. If she is returned to prison, as she expects, she will once again be separated from her husband and daughter.