Former hostage Terry Waite reveals he advised Nazanin to take her return home slowly

16 March 2022, 18:50 | Updated: 16 March 2022, 19:39

Terry Waite gave advise to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe on how to transition from captivity to normal life
Terry Waite gave advise to Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe on how to transition from captivity to normal life. Picture: LBC/Alamy

By Megan Hinton

Terry Waite has told Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe to treat the transition from captivity to normal life like "coming up from the seabed" as he recalls his troubles adjusting to the outside world.

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Speaking on Tonight with Andrew Marr on LBC, Mr Waite, who was taken hostage in Lebanon for 1,760 days, revealed he had been advising Nazanin on how to cope with the "enormous pressure" of returning to the UK.

Mr Wait explained: "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."

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Mr Waite was kidnapped by Hezbollah in Lebanon, when he served as the then-Archbishop of Canterbury’s envoy in 1987.

He had hoped to secure the release of a number of British captives – but ended up being held hostage himself and was detained until November 1991, often held in solitary confinement while chained to a radiator.

His captors would carry out mock executions on him and beat him and went on to found Hostage International, which supports hostages and their families after they are released.

You can also listen to the podcast Tonight with Andrew Marr only on Global Player.

Read more: Flying to freedom: Nazanin smiles as she heads home after six years in Iranian jail

When asked by Andrew Marr about how difficult it is to "rebuild intimate human relationships" after release.

Mr Waite said: "What often happens when people have been away for a long time is they come back and they say right lets 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.

Read more: Andrew Marr: Nazanin's release and hope of Ukraine peace are two rays of sunshine

Read more: 'We took too long' to free Nazanin: Jeremy Hunt admits as she prepares to see her family again

"Not everybody suffers from post traumatic stress disorder but some do and in some people that appears at a later stage, even in some cases years later.

"But in many cases people can manage if they follow the simple guidelines and it works but it takes time."

The former hostage recalled his experience after he came back to the UK, spending the week in a single student room at Trinity College Cambridge away from his family, then weekends at home.

He explained the time spent in his room, adjusting to academic life and re-learning to converse during dinner with fellows was crucial to his adaptation to life in the UK.

"People said at the time 'that is a bad sign, how could he possibly be living away from his family in the middle part of the week and go home at weekends', but it worked."

Adding: "People ask what was the first thing you really wanted to do when you came out?

"I remember it distinctly, its a strange thing, but I said take me please to a book shop.

And I remember going to this book shop and being absolutely balled over by all the books on display because I had not had access to books whilst in captivity. I thought how wonderful."

The UK reportedly handed over £400 million to Iran in a deal to finally release the Brit as a prisoner.

Speaking about her release Richard Ratcliffe, Nazanin's husband said: "There will probably be a couple of days peace and quiet somewhere else, and then back here.

"The first thing she wanted was for me to make her a cup of tea, so we will do (that).

"I think actually we were looking at the house and it needs a bit of tidying, so there might be a bit of tidying, perhaps directed by mummy when she comes back."

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