Kylie Moore-Gilbert's friends won't give up hope as vigil marks two years since her arrest in Iran

Friends, colleagues and supporters of Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert are calling for more to be done to secure her release on the second anniversary of her arrest in Iran.

Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been sentenced to 10 years in jail after being convicted of spying in Iran.

Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert was sentenced to 10 years in jail after being convicted of spying in Iran. Source: Supplied

Friends and colleagues of Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert have held a vigil in Sydney to mark the two-year anniversary of her detention. 

The Islamic studies scholar was arrested at Tehran airport on 13 September, 2018, after speaking at a conference in Qom.

She was later charged with espionage offences and in July was moved to the notorious Qarchak prison, known as one of the worst women's prisons in the world and believed to be the site of extrajudicial killings.

Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert has been imprisoned in Iran for more than two years.
Australian academic Kylie Moore-Gilbert. Source: Supplied

Supporters of Dr Moore-Gilbert, who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison, have used the anniversary of her arrest to renew calls for her release and urge the government to step up discussions with Iran. 

"It's a way to acknowledge the tragic fate of what's happened to Kylie, while still being respectful to family and the government's quiet diplomacy approach," said Mark Isaacs, president of freedom of speech group PEN Sydney, who organised the vigil.

"We're calling for greater action to be taken in regards to Kylie's freedom, from Australian civil society and the government."

The group of 20 people gathered on the steps of Sydney's Town Hall for the vigil on Monday evening, with speakers reading letters sent from Dr Moore-Gilbert while in prison.

Kylie Gilbert-Moore supporters run in solidarity with her on Sunday in Bathurst.
Supporters of Kylie Gilbert-Moore run in solidarity with her on Sunday in Bathurst. Source: Ribbon Gang Media Agency

A day earlier, people around Australia and the United Kingdom, where Dr Moore-Gilbert is also a citizen, marked the anniversary by participating in a "Run for Kylie" campaign.

Dr Moore-Gilbert has reportedly been doing laps of the small jail yard she has access to, despite only being issued plastic prison slippers. 

In her home town of Bathurst, tens of people took to the streets in solidarity with the academic, who is also a long-distance runner.

Dara Conduit, a friend and colleague of Dr Moore-Gilbert, told SBS News the campaign, which encouraged people to tag photos of them running with the hashtag #WeRunWithKylie, was a tribute to her tenacity.

"Despite coming out of solitary confinement, despite the really difficult mental place she must be in, despite her frustration with the lack of progress in the case, and despite the fact that she has prison-issued plastic bathroom slippers to wear on her feet, she's been jogging," she said.

"For her anniversary, we thought let's celebrate her and her remarkable tenacity as a person, the person that we know."

Following Dr Moore-Gilbert's transfer to Qarchak prison, Dr Conduit and a number of former colleagues and friends have come together to advocate for her case, which she said has "gone from bad to worse".

"We felt that Kylie herself felt let down and that it was time to start doing more to help," she said.

"We're concerned that the government perhaps doesn't have a particularly clear strategy on this, but we also know based on history, based on every other person that has gotten out, that Kylie will come home.

"It's just a matter of getting to that point when the two governments are speaking, and that's why we're speaking out to try to put pressure on the Morison government to take this case more seriously."

In a statement on Friday, Dr Moore-Gilbert's family said they were "far from losing hope". 

"We love Kylie very much and we remain strong," they said. "For those who also know and love Kylie, they will recognise her fortitude and strength. We know this strength remains with her throughout this ordeal."

Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Friday said the government was continuing to seek regular consular access to Dr Moore-Gilbert and that their priority was her health, wellbeing, and safety.

"We do not accept the charges upon which Dr Moore-Gilbert was convicted, and want to see her returned to Australia as soon as possible," Ms Payne said, expressing condolences to her family.

"The government believes the best approach to secure Dr Moore-Gilbert’s release is through diplomatic channels."

4 min read
Published 14 September 2020 at 5:57pm
By Maani Truu