Brit mum Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe 'fearful' as she begins prison hunger strike in protest over horrific jail conditions in Iran
The mum has a "strong sense of trepidation" ahead of the three-day protest after being denied vital health care, her husband has said.
And there are mounting fears for Nazanin whose "health is already at its poorest" after discovering lumps in her breasts while caged in one of Iran's most notorious prisons.
The British-Iranian detained in Tehran intends to start her hunger strike today accompanied by Narges Mohammadi, an Iranian human rights defender who is also behind bars in Evin prison, Tehran.
Her husband, Richard Ratcliffe, told The Observer: "We know a hunger strike has significant physical consequences the longer it goes on for and Nazanin is feeling a strong sense of trepidation.
"But there aren't many ways she can say, 'Enough is enough. Take me seriously'."
He said she would consider extending the hunger strike if her demands to see a doctor are not met.
She has been blocked from having medical treatment to check lumps in her breasts and neurological care for her neck pains, along with numbness in her arms and legs.
The mum, who has suffered a raft of mental and physical health complaints since being arrested at Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport on April 3 2016, has also been stopped from seeing a psychiatrist outside the prison.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe, of Hampstead, was sentenced to five years behind bars after being accused of spying – a charge she strongly denies.
The charity worker's four-year-old daughter Gabriella has been staying with family in Iran since Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who works for the Thomson Reuters Foundation, was detained.
The foundation's boss, Monique Villa, said: "It is extremely shocking to see our colleague Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe going on hunger strike to protest at her inhumane treatment in Evin prison, at a time where her health is already at its poorest.
"I am sincerely worried about the dire consequences of this."
With the mum denied access to serious medical care after discovering lumps in her breasts, Villa added: "This is slow and cruel torture, yet one more injustice inflicted upon her."
She spent her 40th birthday on Boxing Day in prison, where she has been detained for more than 1,000 days.
Villa said: "As her employer, I repeat that Nazanin is totally innocent, and certainly not spy material, as portrayed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.
"The Iranian government and judiciary must act immediately, release her and allow urgent treatment before her health deteriorates any further.
I call upon those responsible to free her now."
Richard Ratcliffe, who has mounted a high-profile campaign for his wife's release, told The Observer that his wife was scared her hunger strike could backfire and result in authorities taking revenge – for example by stopping her twice-weekly visits with their daughter.
He said that outside contact has already been curtailed.
While the Foreign Office has sent him advice pointing out the negative impacts on the body upon going on hunger strike, Ratcliffe has found it too distressing to read the information properly.
Not-for-profit group Redress has today demanded that politicians takes the “strongest action as she begins a hunger strike.
“The appalling and ongoing violations of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s rights demand that the UK government pursue all available options to protect her and obtain redress, including placing her under diplomatic protection as she starts a hunger strike today.
“Iranian authorities have restricted calls to her family, reduced food rations and have exerted further psychological pressure on her with the release of a new propaganda film last week, following Nazanin’s announcement that she would begin a three-day hunger strike on 14 January.”
A family member, Shoma, tweeted this morning that “giving Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe diplomatic immunity is the least ministers can do.”
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