Freed Writer Profiles
Kylie Moore-Gilbert is a British-Australian academic who was incarcerated in Iran from late 2018 and released on 25 Nov 2020.
A scholar of Shia Islam with a doctoral thesis on Bahraini history, Kylie was trained at Wolfson College at Cambridge University and Melbourne University where she was employed as an Early Career Researcher in Islamic Studies at the Asia Institute.
She was arrested by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard as she went to leave Tehran in late 2018. This followed two complaints from Iranian citizens, including one at an academic conference Kylie was asked to speak at and during subsequent interviews for research.
She spent a significant amount of time in Iran's notorious Qarchak Prison, one of the harshest women’s prisons in the world. Reports from Qarchak noted poor sanitary conditions, an inadequate number of beds, and that coronavirus has been ‘rife’ within the prison. Previously, Kylie was in Evin Prison, which has a notorious reputation as a punishing interrogation centre. She had been there for over a year, after being sentenced to ten years for espionage.
The reason for Kylie’s incarceration was debated privately by human rights groups, including PEN members, and journalists. Many argues that this is consistent with Iran’s long term actions of holding foreign nationals as leverage in diplomatic negotiations, including those centred on the Straits of Hormuz, the American nuclear deal, and the Missile Crisis earlier this year.
For a long while, her employer Melbourne University, including the staff branch of the National Tertiary Education Union, and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, reassured multiple people that a diplomatic approach was the best course of action. Yet Kylie herself asked for help, and eventually many of Kylie’s friends and colleagues began campaigning publicly for her release, believing that the previous, quiet diplomacy approach had failed.
In the article ‘The Australian Government needs to step up its fight to free Kylie Moore-Gilbert from prison in Iran’ in The Conversation on January 30th 2020, Peter Greste argued that:
… when the traditional methods have failed so dismally to improve anything about Moore- Gilbert’s situation, surely the time has come to shift gears and get shouty to ramp up pressure on both Australian diplomats and Iranian government officials.
Australian PEN centres had Empty Chairs for Kylie at large public events in March, and have coordinated with PEN England and PEN International. There was also international activist support including from the group ‘Free Fariba and Roland’ from Sciences Po University in Paris who are working for other prisoners. 4 Correspondence has been received from Andrew Todd, First Assistant Secretary of Consular and Crisis Management Division at DFAT, and Penny Williams, an Assistant Secretary for DFAT as a whole.
We encouraged members to write to them at the RG Casey Building in Canberra. This was in addition to writing to Ambassador Sachs in Tehran, Minister Payne in Parramatta, and Minister Dominic Raab in the United Kingdom. Perhaps most importantly, we also wrote to Kylie herself, sending letters as messages of love into a sea of injustice.
For more information please consult the articles noted here, and, listen to the podcast ‘Why is an Australian academic locked up in Iran’s most notorious prison?’ on The Guardian, February 26 2020; ‘Friends and colleagues of Kylie Moore-Gilbert are today breaking their silence’ on ABC Radio, July 29 2020; and read about her release and the long process to bring her home in 'Kylie Moore-Gilbert's release from Iran prison brings 'phenomenal' joy to friends and supporters' on SBS, November 27 2020.