After 21 days camped at the gates of the Foreign Office on hunger-strike in solidarity with his wife Nazanin, Richard Ratcliffe went home to his daughter Gabriella, his body gravely depleted but his spirit undefeated.
His wife, a bargaining chip in an unseemly dispute over repayment of a £400m debt the UK owes Iran for undelivered tanks in the 1970s, this day remains held in Tehran along with British nationals Anoosheh Ashoori and Morad Tahbaz.
This will be the sixth festive season Richard, Nazanin and Gabriella, 7, are apart.
Richard Ratcliffe has been tireless in drawing attention to the plight of his wife and family. As the year comes to a close, it looks possible his efforts to put pressure on the Foreign Office to achieve the release of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and her fellow hostages are in danger of actually succeeding.
Last week, it was reported a team of British officials met Iranian counterparts in Tehran to discuss the terms of the debt repayment and secure the release of the hostages. We’ve been here before, though, so until they are back on British soil, the families need all the support – and pressure on government and MPs – they can get.
If foreign secretary Liz Truss secures their release it is to her credit, and a stain on the records of her predecessors who failed; namely Jeremy Hunt, Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab.
Nobody denies the situation is complicated. Nor does the reality of Britain’s debt absolve Iran from the utterly inhumane policy of taking innocent people hostage in this way.
However, that securing action from our government brought a husband to the brink of starvation on a winter pavement, in the heart of what many like to believe is the most civilised country in the world, should shame and humble us all.
Richard Ratcliffe is our Person Of The Year 2021 for those human qualities – bravery, loyalty, integrity, intelligence, sacrifice – he demonstrated in defiance of a government in which those same qualities are so conspicuously absent.