Tears and hugs bring a happy end to a ‘long and cruel separation’: two families finally reunited last night

From left: Aryan and Elika Ashoori , Sherry Azidi,, Anoosheh Ashoori, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe holding her daughter Gabriella, Richard Ratcliffe and Moh Zaghari, Nazanin’s brother, at RAF Brize Norton in the early hours of this morning. Pic: PA

After years in prison and house arrest, Anoosheh Ashoori and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe were reunited with their families in the early hours of this morning, ended a “long and cruel separation”.

After a flight from Teheran via Oman, the Iranian-British nationals landed at RAF Brize Norton just after 1am this morning. Their families apprehensively waited whilst they looked through the airport windows.

Ashoori, now 67, a retired engineer who has lived in Lewisham since 2005, was reunited with his wife, Sherry Azidi and their children, Aryan and Elika, both in their 30s. Zaghari Ratcliffe was met by her husband, Richard Ratcliffe who has campaigned relentlessly for her release, their daughter Gabriella and brother, Moh. The family live in north London. Both families were taken by diplomats to a safe house where they spent the night.

Both Ashoori and Zaghari-Ratcliffe had been imprisoned in Iran for five and six years consecutively after Iranian authorities charged them for spying and treason, which they have vigorously denied. 

ELL reported their return yesterday after a long and hard battle for their release and as part of a deal between the British Government and Iran to repay £400m owed to Teheran. Few details of the deal have been released

The flight stopped at Muscat in the Gulf State of Oman, whose officials had been involved in the diplomatic negotiations.

Images from the plane. Pic: @salqaq

When the plane landed in Oxfordshire last nigh and Ashoori waited to disembark the aircraft, he was seen taking photos with the pilots in the cockpit. The pair then walked down the steps together, accompanied by Brize Norton officials.

Anoosheh Ashoori and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe walking down the plane stairs at Brize Norton, Oxfordshire Pic: PA

Walking towards the terminal building, Ashoori held up peace signs to reporters.

Anoosheh Ashoori and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe arrive at Brize Norton. Ashoori holds up the peace sign. Pic: PA

In a video below shared by daughter Elika Ashoori on Instagram, you see the moment Anoosheh left the aircraft to when he was finally able to embrace his family again. All the parties involved were in tears as they held each other. As the Ashoori family reunites in the video, you hear loud cries behind a barrier border where Zaghari-Ratcliffe sees her daughter in person for the first time in six years. The last time they saw each other, she was a baby. Both families held each other as well.

Anoosheh Ashoori and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe return home. Video credit: Elika Ashoori

The welcoming party included Foreign Secretary Liz Truss who said: “People are in very, very good spirits. I think it’s been a really difficult 48 hours, the expectation that they would be released, but we weren’t sure right until the last moment.

“It’s been very emotional, but also a really happy moment for the families, and I’m pleased to say that both Nazanin and Anoosheh are in good spirits and they’re safe and well back here in Britain.”

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly, who was born in Lewisham took to Twitter to say “yesterday was a good day at work….So great to see Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori back home with their families.”

Aryan Ashoori, 32, a music producer, who lives in Lewisham, spoke to ELL last night as he awaited his father’s return from Iran after five years in prison, during which the family campaigned for his release, often alongside Richard Ratcliffe. He has previously described struggling with his mental health and panic attacks during his father’s ordeal. He spoke to Miri de Villers. 

(Left to right) Aryan Ashoori, Sherry Izadi and Elika Ashoori stage an ’empty chair’ protest opposite Downing Street, London, marking the 4th anniversary of his imprisonment. Pic: PA

“None of it felt concrete or real until we saw him, or heard of him, touching down in Oman. That’s when we knew it’s real and it’s actually happening. He’s at the airport. He’s on a plane. Those are the moments that kept us hopeful in the last few days.” 

“I just want it to happen now. Being asked how you feel makes you disassociate from the actual feeling. Because you’re trying to comprehend how you feel, but you’re not actually having time to feel. It’s just waiting to see him and see how my emotions will unfold at the time. 

My sister has made a cake. So, we’re going to give him a cake. But, yeah, I mean, honestly, we don’t have anything planned. It’s not going to be anything contrived or forced; we’re just going to see him and have conversations. You know it’s family, you don’t need to plan anything, you just need to exist and enjoy each other’s company. So that’s kind of what we’re planning. Our plan is not to have a plan.” “

”There are many functions in the family that I can’t provide. Because it’s his role as the dad and the husband, he’s the most experienced out of all of us. He’s the elder, someone that we look up to. So, it’s just great to have him back to fill his role in our family, which has not been in the flesh for the past few years. Also, just having him around, his humour, wisdom, and support for our everyday lives.” 

]“Reading the news for anyone is always very grim, especially these days with everything that’s going on. I’m glad that we’re able to produce that kind of little resolve for anyone who hears about this. A small win towards global justice, but you know, still a win that is worth cherishing.” “

“When I joined Richard Ratcliffe on his hunger strike, I wasn’t on a hunger strike, but I stayed with him overnight at his camp and just talked to all the people who come and speak with them. You realise there are so many people out there who have that empathy and power to connect to something beyond them and genuinely form that emotional connection to support a cause. That’s been absolutely humbling to experience, and it just gives you hope

Some of them [the panic attacks] only happen when I’m going to bed. Suddenly, you jump out of your bed for nothing. It’s like your body going into complete fear, a fight or flight response, and nothing’s really happening. It’s just leftover trauma. It’s interesting to see after today, whether those ones will continue, or will they subside? And yes, I don’t think it will be an overnight change. But hopefully, there’ll be some relief coming.

 “They [Government officials] have been quite supportive in the last few days. The support of the civil service throughout this whole ordeal has been phenomenal. Especially … the special caseworkers that we have through the Foreign Office, they’ve been great. Obviously, there are a lot of ups and downs with the people who are of spokesperson capacity: public officers, they represent the party politics side of diplomacy. What they say and do is a bit harder to deal with than the backbone of the government, which is the civil service and the people who are working tirelessly. They have been very supportive, and they will be in the coming days. 

Leave a Reply