Former hostage Terry Waite advising Nazanin on returning to real life after six-year ordeal in Iran

Now 82-year-old, who was held in captivity in Lebanon for almost five years, says British-Iranian mother should take her time adjusting to normal life

Chiara Giordano
Thursday 17 March 2022 17:57 GMT
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe's daughter runs to hug her mother in airport reunion

A former hostage held captive for 1,760 days has revealed the piece of advice he passed on to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe after she returned home from her six-year ordeal in Iran.

Terry Waite, who was taken hostage in Lebanon in 1987, was able to offer words of encouragement and hope to the British-Iranian mother in emails over the final year of her detention.

He revealed he assured the aid worker her “ordeal will come to an end” just days before her release after she told him she was “weary” and desperate to be back home in north London with her husband and their seven-year-old daughter.

Mr Waite, 82, said he told Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe to return to life slowly “as though coming up from the seabed” – the same advice he was given following his own release in 1991.

He told LBC’s Tonight with Andrew Marr programme: “I said Nazanin when you come out, take it as if you are coming up from the sea bed, if you come up too quickly you will get nitrogen in the blood and you will become seriously ill.

“If you come up gently, one step at a time, then you will be fine. Make your statement to the press, get that off your chest, then go and meet with the family and then go away from all the enormous pressure that will be on her at this time.”

He also told TheGuardian that Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe should “tell her story”, as doing so before “trained listeners” was a significant factor in his own recovery.

Terry Waite, who was held hostage in Lebanon for nearly five years, has given Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe advice on how to return to normal life (Ramzi Haidar/AFP via Getty Images)

Mr Waite was taken hostage by Hezbollah after travelling to Lebanon in January 1987 as the special envoy of the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, hoping to secure the release of the British journalist John McCarthy and other Western captives.

But he was accused of being an agent acting for the CIA and was himself kidnapped.

During the first year of his captivity Mr Waite was kept in solitary confinement, chained to a radiator for 23 hours a day.

Former hostage Terry Waite, pictured at Westminster Abbey in March 2014, has given advice to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe following her release from detention in Iran (Getty Images)

He was also subjected to mock executions and beatings while locked in his cramped cell before he was eventually released in November 1991.

Speaking of the difficulties in rebuilding intimate relationships after release, he told LBC: “What often happens when people have been away for a long time is they come back and they say right let’s do all the things, and quickly, that we haven’t done, a second honeymoon or what have you.

“And the experience is when that happens in many cases, things collapse and really difficulties emerge after the first few weeks.

“Then you go back to that age old wisdom, just take it easy, take your time, don’t rush it.”

An emotional reunion was caught on video as Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe touched down on British soil shortly after 1am on Thursday alongside fellow British-Iranian detainee Anoosheh Ashoori following her six-year ordeal.

It began after she visited Iran in mid-March 2016 to spend time with family members for Nowruz (New Year), only to be detained on her way home at Imam Khomeini Airport on 3 April 2016.

Terry Waite waves as he arrives in Lyneham, Wiltshire, on 19 November 1991, following his release in Lebanon (AFP via Getty Images)

Her daughter Gabriella, then just 22 months old, was left in the care of her maternal grandparents living in Iran, only returning to the UK to be reunited with her father in October 2019.

She was accused by the Iranian authorities plotting to overthrow the Iranian government.

Mr Ashoori, who was arrested in August 2017 while visiting his elderly mother in Tehran, was detained in Evin prison for almost five years after being accused of spying.

Both have consistently denied the allegations.

Ms Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s MP Tulip Siddiq revealed Gabriella slept in between her parents for the first time since they were forced apart six years ago.

The Labour MP for Hampstead and Kilburn tweeted on Thursday morning: “Richard sounds so happy this morning.

“He laughingly told me that Gabriella slept in between him and Nazanin last night for the first time in six years.”

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