British-Iranian aid worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and dual national Anoosheh Ashoori arrived in Britain from Iran on Thursday, ending an ordeal during which they became a bargaining chip in Iran’s talks with the West over its nuclear programme.
They arrived at the British military airbase of Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, shortly after 1 a.m. local time, after flying back via a brief stopover in Oman. They walked off the plane together and smiled and waved as they entered an airport building.
“It has been a really difficult 48 hours,” British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said shortly after Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Ashoori arrived at the base. “The expectation was that they would be released but we weren’t sure right until the last minute so it’s been very emotional but also a really happy moment for the families.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson celebrated the pair’s release on Twitter earlier in the day.
“I am very pleased to confirm that the unfair detention of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori in Iran has ended today, and they will now return to the UK,” Johnson said in a tweet.
Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s husband Richard said the long ordeal appeared to finally be over. “It’s just a relief, the idea that we can go back to being a normal family, that we don’t have to keep fighting, that this long journey is almost over,” he told Reuters outside his London home before his wife landed.
A statement from Ashoori’s family thanked everyone who had worked towards his release. “1,672 days ago our family’s foundations were rocked when our father and husband was unjustly detained and taken away from us.
“Now, we can look forward to rebuilding those same foundations with our cornerstone back in place.”